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Public opinion about climate policies: A review and call for more studies of what people want

June 26, 2022

Through an article published in PLOS Climate, CSSN Scholar Malcolm Fairbrother reviews what we know about public attitudes towards climate policies and highlights the people’s desire for research on alternatives to carbon taxes.


Around the world, most people are aware of the problem of climate change, believe it is anthropogenic, and feel concerned about its potential consequences. What they think should be done about the problem, however, is less clear. Particularly due to widespread support among policy experts for putting a price on greenhouse gas emissions, more studies have investigated public attitudes towards carbon taxes than any other type of policy. Such studies have found substantial public opposition to carbon taxes, largely due to political distrust, though also some evidence that careful design and messaging can mitigate people’s skepticism. Surprisingly few studies have investigated attitudes towards other climate policies, and there is an urgent need for more research about what—given their beliefs about the nature and severity of the problem—people would like to see their governments doing. This is especially the case for residents of lower-income and/or non-Western nations.

Image Credit: Shutterstock/ Phillip Minnis