Issue Brief

Sharing the Load: A Multi-country Survey of the Willingness to Pay for Slowing Climate Change

Dec 16, 2009 | Alan J. Krupnick, Thomas Sterner

Public opinion samplings suggesting that climate change is no longer a priority concern among Americans as well as citizens of other nations are disabused by a new multi-country survey that challenges such findings. The RFF report finds that a large majority of citizens in the U.S. and elsewhere are in fact willing to pay to avoid the consequences of a rise in global temperatures.

The new study, entitled Sharing the Load: A Multi-Country Survey of the Willingness to Pay for Slowing Climate Change,” by RFF Senior Fellow Alan Krupnick and RFF University Fellow Thomas N.S. Sterner, was released at the international climate negotiations meeting in Copenhagen.

Two key questions were examined in the survey, which was conducted in early December 2009 among 4,000 respondents in the United States, Sweden, and China. They were:

  • How strongly (in terms of their willingness to pay) do people in various countries feel about bearing the costs required to avoid climate change.
  • How should the economic burden of reducing greenhouse gases be divided among countries to avoid perceptions of unfairness.

The findings support the conclusion that most Americans (71%) are willing to pay as a result of U.S. policies aimed at mitigating climate changes.

“To avoid the consequences of climate change that would arise from a 4°F temperature increase, 91.5% of Swedish respondents and 71% of US respondents were willing to pay some amount of money – but Swedes were willing to pay more, averaging $306/year versus $204/year for the U.S. sample,” the report said. “Respondents in both countries were willing to pay even more if temperature increases could be held to 3°F ($330/year in the U.S.; $552/year in Sweden) and more still to hold the increase at 2°F ($430/year in the U.S.; $756/year in Sweden).”