Insights into the shifting public view on climate change in the U.S.
By Luke Babich, Co-Founder and CEO at Clever Real Estate
For decades, scientists have delivered warnings on the dangers of climate change. And, for decades, Americans have had differing opinions on how big of a threat it poses. That tide seems to be changing.
According to a 2022 survey, 87% of Americans now believe climate change poses a risk to the world, with 65% considering it a serious risk. While opinions vary on what can and should be done to combat it, 3 in 4 Americans believe we need to do something to fight this growing global crisis. The study, which was conducted by Clever Real Estate, also looked at how climate change affects their views on buying or selling a home.
Let’s break down the survey responses in more detail and take a closer look at how Americans really feel about climate change and what should be done to limit, or reverse, its impact on Earth and their role as homeowners.
As already noted, 87% of Americans believe climate change poses a risk with 65% calling it a serious risk and 22% considering it a slight risk, leaving 13% to say there was no risk or that they did not believe in climate change.
Of those who believe in climate change, a majority say we are already experiencing its effect, or that we will soon. Among believers, 59% say we are already feeling it with another 18% saying it will be felt within their lifetime. Of the remaining, 12% believe it will be felt within the next 100 years and only 10% say it will be felt in more than 100 years.
Americans who believe in climate change have several concerns about the toll it will take, with 59% being concerned about the rising global temperatures and increased natural disasters and 58% worried about a lack of accessibility to clean water. Other areas of potential concern included species becoming extinct, less food causing starvation, rising sea levels, and an increase in global pandemics, such as the recent COVID-19 pandemic.
While a majority of Americans believe in and favor combating climate change, 6% or 1 in 15 say they still do not believe it exists. Despite the increasing scientific evidence, 43% of non-believers say climate change is a made-up political issue. At the same time, 3 in 4 Americans say climate change plays a role in how they vote, with 40% saying it has a big impact and 36% saying it has a small impact.
Among climate change deniers, 40% say it’s a naturally occurring phenomenon and people are not responsible, 20% say they have not experienced any effects of climate change, and 12% say they do not think the science is settled on the issue.
When it comes to fighting climate change, 73% of survey respondents say the U.S. should do more. Optimistically, 69% of Americans believe it is not too late to address climate change. They are also hopeful about the role future generations will take in making changes, with 63% confident that future generations will have a solution.
What Americans should do, and what individuals are willing to sacrifice to limit the effects of climate change varies somewhat by generation. Among Millennials and Gen Z, 82% say they are willing to make sacrifices. By comparison, 76% of Baby Boomers reported the same.
Though 80% of those surveyed overall say they are willing to make personal sacrifices, only 26% are willing to pay more in taxes to support change. Instead, 47% support tax breaks for homeowners who buy solar panels and 40% for buying electric or hybrid vehicles. In addition, 44% believe the federal government should invest in green businesses and jobs.
Respondents favored other solutions individuals can take, such as eating less meat and limiting their use of electricity, one of the leading creators of emissions that are linked with climate change. Among the most popular areas of focus, 59% of Americans say we should focus on conserving forests and lands, 54% on conserving other bodies of water, and 52% on investing in renewable resources.
Shortly after the survey was conducted, the federal government addressed climate change as part of the Inflation Reduction Act. The bill aims to reduce our carbon footprint by reducing energy emissions 40% by 2030 and investing $369 billion in solutions for climate change.
When asked about the role of climate change on real estate, Americans were mostly united in how it will impact the housing market. Nine in ten believe climate change will have an impact on real estate. At the same time, they’re equally split on how that will affect prices, with 50% saying they expect home prices to become more expensive as a result.
Respondents also appear to be equally divided about the long-term impact on how hospitable climate change will make living on Earth. Among those surveyed, 57% believe climate change will cause people to migrate from Earth within the next 500 years. Again, there are generational correlations on this subject, with 68% of Gen Z and 62% of Millennials believing it is more likely compared to 45% of Baby Boomers.
Interestingly, when asked about a list of possible ramifications of climate change, including rising temperatures, natural disasters, and inaccessibility to food and water, respondents seemed to be least concerned with an increase in property damage with only 29% considering it a major concern.
Likewise, Americans had mixed and sometimes conflicting opinions on what they will and won’t do regarding climate change when it comes to buying real estate. Home buyers reported in the survey that they are willing to pay $30,000 more on average for a home with fewer risks for natural disasters, such as mudslides and wildfires. However, 64% of Americans say they are willing to buy a home in an area at risk for disaster because they value saving money over avoiding the risk.