Are people buying in to climate change?

How big of a worry is climate change?

According to Gallup, a slim majority of Americans think that climate change is “not a worry at all” or is “a little bit of a worry”.

Hardly hysteria.

The issue ranks #14 on Gallup’s list of top worries … about twice as many people think that the economy and government spending is a big deal.

People are way more concerned about crime & violence, terrorism and the availability & affordability of energy.




And, even more interesting than the polling data is how people are acting in the free market …


Remember in 2009 when Pres. Obama slapped big purchase incentives (i.e. gov’t paid rebates) on the purchase of hybrid and electric cars?

At the time, he vowed to get 1 million of those buggies on the road by 2015.

Well, numerous sources report that he’ll fall about 690,000 vehicles short of that goal.

Oh my.

And the story gets even shakier.

Edmunds – the auto buying authority – reports that the modest levels of “trial” that hybrids and EVs got over the past couple of years haven’t converted to many repurchases.

“Overall, only 45 percent of this year’s hybrid and EV trade-ins have gone toward the purchase of another alternative fuel vehicle.”

Here’s the real kicker:

“About 22 percent of people who have traded in their hybrids and EVs in 2015 bought new gas-guzzling SUVs.

When I teach about the awareness-trial-repurchase cycle, I always remind students that repurchase decisions are usually based on consumers’ actual experience with products in “normal use”.

And, when repurchase rates drop it’s because the product doesn’t meet expectations and isn’t judged to be worth its price.

So, folks sort climate change low on their worry list, and even “good citizens” who literally “buy-in” don’t seem to “buy again”.



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2 Responses to “Are people buying in to climate change?”

  1. Alex S Says:

    1. Wasn’t the hybrid car hype based on not just the rationale of saving the environment, but because, at the time, gas prices had shot up (2002 onward), and everyone – especially gas-guzzler owners was feeling the pinch on their wallets?
    2. Don’t you think that if gas prices had remained at 2008 peak levels of around $4.00/gallon instead of plummeting as they have done, that the purchase and repurchase rates of hybrids would have been significantly higher?
    3. By the way, per capita electric power consumption in the USA is 2x that of Germany… It’s not a stretch to imagine that this is due to the fact that US electricity prices are (already) among the lowest in the world – thanks in part to $30B in subsidies.

  2. Dan Says:

    Alex, thanks for the data references. So the World Bank data shows that Germany’s total consumption is increasing, while the US is decreasing.

    The US demand decline is well known, and in fact is has significant challenges for utilities and their ability to make ongoing capital investments.

    Also interesting that German GDP per unit of energy use, is significantly greater than that of the US. I would like to understand the drivers behind these numbers. With Germany shuttering it’s nukes, maybe there are some inefficiencies with their alternative sources, I just don’t know, but interesting data source nonetheless.

    Regardless, the US continues to see electricity demand decrease as our electronics and power management become more efficient and effective. I would love to see someone do more research on this trend, especially since the environmental impact of decreased demand is immediate.

    Again, thanks for the data sources.

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