Survey: more than half of Americans deeply concerned about climate change

Jan. 12, 2023
A first-of-its-kind study commissioned by Veolia gauged both the American public and 24 other countries’ citizens on their attitudes toward climate change and green solutions.

One in four Americans say climate change is affecting their decision-making on major life events such as having children, according to new survey results released today by environmental services company Veolia and research firm Elabe.

For example, across many topics covered in the survey, a clear consensus is emerging toward green solutions that were tested and a strong level of acceptance of the changes required to implement them (whether for initiatives related to energy, resource protection, or water).

The survey gauged American public opinion about climate change and measured the willingness of Americans to accept solutions. It found 80 percent of Americans agree that climate change is occurring and more than 60 percent believe it is caused by humans. Half of all Americans are willing to accept changes to their lives caused by potential solutions to climate change, even those that may cost more. The data reflects a representative sample size of more than 1,000 participants with a margin of error of 1.3 percent-3.0 percent.

Veolia commissioned the study as part of a global effort to measure world sentiment around climate disruption and the public acceptance of solutions.

With a sample covering more than half the world's population on all five continents, Veolia’s Global Ecological Transformation Barometer reveals valuable results. According to respondents, the reality of climate change is uncontested, but the path to mitigate it is still difficult to imagine.

“This first-of-a-kind study highlights the obstacles to wide scale deployment of ecological solutions,” says Estelle Brachlianoff, CEO of Veolia. “The results are clear: awareness of climate issues is broad and people around the world are convinced that the cost of doing nothing will be higher than the cost of action. They want to learn more about the existing solutions and are in favor of their large-scale deployment, provided that they are fair and effective. These encouraging results show that all segments of society must share responsibility and commitment to mobilize and accelerate the ecology of solutions. It is no longer possible to put off until tomorrow the decisions that must be taken today.”

Frederic Van Heems, President and CEO of Veolia North America, said the study shows people in the United States are similarly concerned.

“They share a sense of urgency with the rest of the world,” Van Heems says. “The results tell us that Americans feel it is time to act, and that they are eager to address the challenges of climate change with innovative solutions that preserve our precious resources. The results also show us that there are many in the U.S. who remain skeptical, which is why it is so important to demonstrate that environmental solutions can and must coincide with economic growth.”

Top findings in the United States:

  • 61 percent of Americans express a feeling of ecological and climate vulnerability.
  • 55 percent of Americans think we need to change our ways of life, live more frugally and put in place technological solutions to reduce climate change.
  • 52 percent of Americans believe there is not enough public conversation about solutions to mitigate pollution and climate disruption.
  • 64 percent of Americans believe the risk of polluted natural resources on public health is serious and immediate.
  • 54 percent of Americans believe we can still limit climate change and pollution.
  • 57 percent of Americans believe the costs associated with climate change and pollution are going to be more important than the investments needed for ecological transformation.

Main findings at the global level:

  • 67 percent of the world’s inhabitants are certain that the costs of the consequences of climate change and pollution will be greater than the investments needed for the ecological transformation.
  • 60 percent of the world’s inhabitants are ready to accept most of the changes (economic, cultural, social) that the massive deployment of ecological solutions would require. But with clear conditions: no health risks, a fair distribution of the effort and the proven usefulness of the solution.
  • 56 percent of the world’s inhabitants believe that the solutions to mitigate pollution and climate change are not sufficiently talked about.

The survey was conducted in 25 countries in five continents with more than 25,000 individuals (about 1,000 per country). Countries were chosen for their demographic weight, their impact in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and to ensure a diversity of political and cultural ecological histories. Overall, these countries represent nearly 60 percent of the world's population and 68 percent of global GHG emissions.

The survey was conducted online from August 24 to September 26, 2022. For each of the 25 countries, a representative sample of residents aged 18 and over was selected. The survey will be repeated every 18 months (to capture the evolution of representations, opinions and behaviors).

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