Using identical surveys a decade apart, we examine how attitudes and willingness to pay (WTP) for climate policies have changed in the United States, China, and Sweden. All three countries exhibit an increased willingness to pay for climate mitigation. Ten years ago, Sweden had a larger fraction of believers in anthropogenic climate change and a higher WTP for mitigation, but today the national averages are more similar. Although we find convergence in public support for climate policy across countries, there is considerable divergence in both WTP and climate attitudes within countries. Political polarization explains part of this divergence.
Sweden: Climate opinions in Sweden have largely stagnated since 2009, although there has been a slight decrease in commitment to climate change policies. Attitudes toward climate policy are increasingly polarized.
- 73% of Swedish respondents think that Sweden should reduce emissions even if other countries do not (down from 81% in 2009).
- In 2019, 55% of Swedish respondents think that the environment should take priority even if jobs are lost (down from 61% in 2009).
- Less support for climate action exists among Swedish right-wing voters, and the share that shows support is considerably lower than among left-wing voters and centrists. However, the percentage of right-winter voters who think we can stop climate change increased from 6% in 2009 to 11% in 2019.
China: Opinion in China has shifted toward a more positive attitude toward climate policies. Notably, Chinese respondents are more willing to pay a larger share of their income than respondents in Sweden or the United States.
- In 2019, 3% of people do not believe that global temperatures have not increased—less than in Sweden (7%) and the United States (16%).
- Up from 77% in 2009, 89% of Chinese respondents think their country should reduce carbon emissions, regardless of what other countries do—more than in Sweden (73%) or the United States (79%).
- Willingness to pay for emissions reductions has increased, and tends to be higher for members of the Communist party.
United States: Opinion in the United States has shifted toward a more positive attitude toward climate policies; however, these views are increasingly polarized.
- Belief in human-caused global temperature increases has increased in the United States by 10 percentage points since 2009.
- In 2019, 60% of US respondents are willing to prioritize the environment, even at the expense of jobs—significantly more than in 2009 (40%).
- 78% of US respondents think the US should reduce emissions, even if other countries do not—up from 68% in 2009. This view increased primarily among Democrats.
- Willingness to pay for emissions reductions has increased in the United States across Democratic, Republican, and Independent voters. However, there has been an increasing political polarization between Republicans and Democrats when it comes to the group of voters who are not willing to pay anything.
Comparing Willingness to Pay: Swedish citizens are willing to pay the most to reduce emissions relative to their country’s carbon footprint: They’re willing to pay $129 per ton of emissions reductions, far more than people in China ($44 per ton) and in the United States ($31 per ton). In the 2019 survey, Chinese citizens were willing to pay a greater share of their income—as much as 0.9% for an 30% reduction in emissions, compared to 0.8% in Sweden and 0.6% in the United States. The average value all three countries place on reducing a ton of CO2 increased from 2009.