The last couple of years have brought a long list of headlines that should alarm anyone concerned about the changing climate, from the growing number of climate-linked disasters to the resilient growth in oil and gas. But beneath those headlines another apparent trend should alarm anyone advocating for climate policy: economic conditions may be making people less willing to pay to tackle climate change.
Only 38% of Americans would be willing to pay a $1 per month carbon fee to address climate change, according to new polling released Tuesday from the AP-NORC Center and the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago. That’s the lowest level of support since the poll began in 2016, and it represents a 14 percentage point decline since 2021, the last year the poll was conducted. A smaller share of respondents said they would be willing to pay higher amounts. The survey found that just over 20%, for example, would pay $100.
Though the poll didn’t delve into the reasoning behind this particular shift, it’s easy to surmise how economic conditions might reduce Americans’ willingness to pay to address climate change. Last year, the consumer-price index, which measures what consumers pay for goods and services, showed a significant spike in costs, with prices at least 6% higher than the year prior in every month of the year—and at some points significantly higher than that. Meanwhile, volatility in the stock market has rattled consumers with large savings.
Trepidation about the costs isn’t just reflected in polling, it’s a reality seemingly borne out on the ground, too. In late March, Berlin voters failed to pass a referendum that would have committed the city to eliminating its carbon foot print by 2030, with some commentators citing concerns about cost as an explanation for why the typically left-leaning city would reject such a measure. (Berlin apartment rental prices, for example, have risen dramatically in recent months).