Are people less worried about climate change because it is thought to be a future problem?

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In October of 2016, an online survey of 1071 Americans investigated the relationship between the distant future and levels of concern about climate change.

Do people have trouble visualizing the distant future?

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has a tenancy to use the year 2050 and 2100 when discussing climate change. However, participants found it difficult to imagine that far into the future. Could this make it harder for them to imagine the future consequences of climate change?


Are people optimistic about the future?

If people are optimistic about their own future and the ability of technology to solve climate change, they may be less worried about the impacts of climate change.

Personal Optimism


58% of participants AGREE that they are always optimistic about their future.

Technological Optimism


76% of participants AGREE that advancing technology provides us with hope for the future.


52% of participants AGREE that future resources shortages will be solved by technology


Are people concerned about climate change?


How worried are people about climate change compared to other global risks?

Out of 7 global risks climate change was ranked ranked second.

  1. Terrorism


  3. Loss of biodiversity

  4. Radioactive waste

  5. Nuclear power

  6. Genetic modification



To summarize:

  • Participants had trouble visualizing the year 2050.

  • Participants were optimistic about the future.

  • Participants were concerned about climate change.


  • There was NO correlation between participants’ ability to visualize the future and their level of concern about climate change.

  • There was NO correlation between participants’ future optimism and their level of concern about climate change.


  • These results suggest that the ability to visualize the future and future optimism do not have a major influence on how a person judges climate change risk.