Climate Action

How U.S. adults are changing their feelings about climate change

Climate change America United States perception

28% of respondents in 2020 said they felt alarmed about climate change. Image: Unsplash/NOAA

Willem Roper
Editor, Statista
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SDG 13: Climate Action

  • Indifference towards climate change in U.S. adults is becoming alarm and concern.
  • Yale survey data shows 28% of respondents in 2020 said they felt alarmed about climate change, an increase from 2017.
  • Since 2010, the number of those who are doubtful about climate change has also fallen from 15 percent to 11 percent.

Climate change continues to occupy an ever-growing space in the conversations of governments and businesses around the world. More and more leaders are creating plans focused on carbon neutrality and utilizing cleaner energies in the coming decades, in large part due to increased pressure from a more informed public. New survey data shows how the public’s indifference toward climate change has quickly transitioned to alarm and concern.

In survey data from the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, 28 percent of respondents in 2020 said they felt alarmed about climate change, with 26 percent saying they felt concerned. While the percentage of those saying they’re alarmed has risen steadily over the last decade, the number of those who are concerned has risen 15 percentage points in just the last five years. Since 2010, the number of those who are doubtful about climate change has fallen from 15 percent to 11 percent.

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Overall, those who said they felt dismissive or doubtful about climate change in 2010 are quickly becoming cautious, concerned and alarmed. In separate surveys from Pew Research and Gallup, a majority of those still dismissive and doubtful about climate change are conservative, Republican voters, pointing to how skeptical rhetoric from conservative leaders across the world is still playing a powerful role in how the public perceives climate science.

Despite decades of convincing science providing evidence for the devastating impacts of climate change in the near future, costs and profit motives have kept industries and governments from fully committing to progressive clean energy policy and infrastructure. That’s quickly changing, however, as more leaders, executives and shareholders consider the consequences of continuing to consume traditional fossil fuels. Couple that with a boom in the renewable energy industry producing cheaper clean energy and you have companies marketing their carbon neutrality plans and governments promising massive reductions in fossil fuels over the coming decades.

Climate change youth awareness survey emotion.
The rate of people becoming increasingly alarmed is increasing. Image: Yale Program on Climate Change Communications, Grist
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