Climate Change–Lots of Fear But Reluctance To Pay

100% renewable energy isn’t going to happen in the foreseeable future. The science doesn’t exist, the cost would be astronomical and the politics impossible


Research in many places shows that people are very worried about climate change and they are broadly supportive of implementing policies to tackle this issue. However, people struggle to accept the personal impact policies may have on them and are reluctant to put up the cash to implement the policies.

United Kingdom

The UK is one example. The public in this country is considerably more concerned by climate change than it was even a year ago, following a string of wildfires, storms and other extreme events around the world, a recent survey shows. However, the survey also finds that while people are in favor of drastic measures to help the country become net zero by 2050 in theory—when they realize the cost and potential inconvenience it could give them personally support drops off rapidly. A majority of the UK public support seven out of eight key net zero policies, in principle, while opposing increased taxes on meat and dairy. 1

A follow-up question asking them to consider making personal sacrifices, such as not being able to take a flight or missing out on a favorite food because it was wrapped in single-use plastic, found only one measure had majority support—charging more for environmentally damaging products and services.

United States

Similar results were noted in the United States. The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) did a poll of 1,200 regular US voters. While a strong majority of respondents said they are either somewhat or very concerned about climate change, 71 percent of respondents sent a strong message that they are unwilling to pay for climate change mitigation policies out of pocket. Thirty-nine percent said they would not spend one dollar more than they already spend annually on gas or electricity to mitigate the effects of climate change. A further nine percent said they would spend as much as $10 more per year on gas and electricity on policies to mitigate climate change. 2

Other key findings: A majority of 56 percent said they were unlikely to spend extra money to replace their gas powered car with an electric vehicle, with 41 percent very unlikely and 15 percent somewhat unlikely to do so. When asked to rate the importance of climate change on a spectrum compared to other issues it rated 11th on a list of 13. Other issues rated higher than climate change included jobs and the economy, immigration and border security, crime, and rising energy prices.

Exit polling from the 2020 election shows that the climate issue was simply not a voter priority anywhere. The high mark for climate seems to have been in Colorado, where 9% of voters said climate was their priority. But in states such as Florida, Texas, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and even Biden’s Delaware, a mere 3% of voters said climate was their priority. 3

Green New Deal

The public doesn’t want the Green New Deal. People say so in every poll. A 2019 Washington Post-Kaiser Foundation survey found that most people would oppose paying even a mere $2 more per month on their electric bill for climate purposes. The polling running up to the election failed to indicate a significant pulse among voters for the climate. A New York Times exit polls report more of the same. 3

And if the average person realized the truth that Green New Deal policies just raises prices and reduces their standard of living without improving the weather or climate in any discernible way, support for it would be zero.

This target, set by President Joe Biden with the goal of creating a carbon pollution free power sector by 2035 and net zero emissions economy by no later than 2050, will be prohibitively expensive. A recent Nature study shows the cost of a 95 percent reduction by 2050, almost within reach of Biden’s net zero, would cost 11.9 percent of GDP or more than $11,000 dollars for each American every year. 4

Clearly, a 100 percent renewable electricity system is not realistic by 2035 as the Green New Deal requires and certainly not at a reasonable cost. Wind and solar technologies are intermittent, as they depend on the weather and have low capacity factors, meaning that much more capacity would be required than the coal or natural gas capacity that they would be replacing. Further, battery storage is currently not a viable option as the technology is expensive and still developing. 100% renewable energy isn’t going to happen in the foreseeable future. The science doesn’t exist, the cost would be astronomical and the politics impossible. 5 And, clearly folks aren’t willing to pay.


Jack Dini — Bio and Archives

Jack Dini is author of Challenging Environmental Mythology.  He has also written for American Council on Science and Health, Environment & Climate News, and Hawaii Reporter.

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