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  • Writer's pictureStephen Bohnet

The Tide Turns: Americans Call for Action on Climate Change


A recent nationwide survey of 1,508 Americans conducted by F’inn, a strategic insights firm (https://www.finn-group.com/), has revealed a seismic shift in public opinion regarding climate change and sustainability. The majority of Americans are deeply concerned about climate change and demand decisive action.


For decades, the discourse surrounding climate change has been fraught with skepticism and uncertainty. Key questions lingered in the public sphere: Is climate change real? Are humans the cause? Has the climate always been changing? Is there a scientific consensus on these issues? We’re now beyond the tipping point.  Most Americans are convinced and are calling for action.


The survey identified two segments of the population championing this change. The “Eco-champions,” comprising 24% of the population, are activists who not only incorporate sustainability into their daily routines but also direct their spending away from companies they deem environmentally irresponsible. The “Alarmed Masses,” making up 27%, share similar concerns but struggle to prioritize sustainability due to cost and practicality.  Together these segments make up 51% of the population, up from 47% three years earlier. More striking, Eco-champions, the leading eco-segment, grew from 15% to 24% in only three years.


At the other end of the spectrum, segments resistant to accepting climate change as a critical issue still exist. The “Skeptics,” those who believe climate change exists but that it is natural, make up 19% of the population (with no change to their size over the past 3 years). Skeptics neither dwell on the environment nor pay attention to what companies are doing about it, though they are typically open to environmentally friendly products and solutions.  “Hoaxers” believe climate change is a hoax that is blown out of proportion in the news.  They watch more news than any other segment and are distrustful of mainstream media.  When I present this sustainability research to companies, I typically ask, “How big do you think the hoaxer segment is?”  Most think it is somewhere in the 30% range, but Hoaxers make up just 3% of the population.  Because they are so vocal, they can dominate headlines, giving the perception that they are a much bigger segment.


What has catalyzed the shift toward eco-consciousness, with now nearly one quarter of the population mobilized as Eco-champions? The survey points to two significant factors. First, the effects of climate change have become visible to the average person. The undeniable alteration in weather patterns over the years has turned personal observation into a powerful catalyst for change. To quote our own survey participants:

“It’s happening right in front of our eyes.” “I see it happening where I live.” “I’ve lived in the same place for more than three decades. The weather is so much different than when I first moved here.” “I know the weather isn't the same as when I was a kid." “Just look at the rising temperatures over the last 5-6 years.”

Secondly, there's more trust in science. Despite years of media doubt, a near consensus has been reached among scientists that the Earth's climate is warming—a fact increasingly recognized by the public (https://climate.nasa.gov/scientific-consensus/ ). Personal experiences with extreme weather events like heatwaves (experienced by 54%), extreme storms (26%), flooding (18%), droughts (29%, up from 20% three years ago) and wildfires (12%, up from 8%), have only strengthened this trust. Again, here’s what survey participants say:

“I was skeptical for a long time, but the evidence seems clear that climate change is happening as a result of our actions.” “All the data I hear on the news has me believing the scientists that are warning about it.” “A great deal of scientific research indicates climate may be changing because of human activity. As populations worldwide grow, we must learn how to minimize the impact of our activity on the environment.” “The science behind it is clear and the effects will be devastating.” “Because 100% of scientists who research it agree without taking a secret handshake from big corporations that it is a known fact that we have ignored for years.”

As concern grows, so does the recognition of the role companies play in this global issue. A significant 61% of participants believe that companies are major contributors to environmental damage and should intensify their sustainability efforts. Simultaneously, 40% are actively seeking out companies that are making strides toward sustainability, with 30% choosing not to do business with companies they believe negatively impact the environment.


While the willingness to take action is evident, many feel lost on how to proceed. About 47% of the population would like to do more personally toward sustainability, but don’t know how; 38% have tried to prioritize sustainability but find it is too costly or too inconvenient.  Economic pressures also influence sustainability priorities, with 40% prioritizing immediate financial and family responsibilities.


As we share this research with companies, ranging from the biggest, fastest moving tech firms to small, local businesses, we’re asking businesses to take bold action.  Businesses must become aware of the shift in public sentiment, recognizing that consumers are demanding more.  If businesses take sustainability seriously by communicating their efforts and adopting more responsible practices, they can gain a competitive edge. Failing to do so will leave the opportunity up to their competition.


For consumers, the survey suggests leveraging buying power to advocate for change. By choosing to patronize companies that prioritize sustainability and shunning those that do not, consumers can effectively 'vote with their wallet'—a principle that has the potential to drive corporate change.


The collective American psyche on climate change is undergoing a profound transformation. The days of questioning and passive observation have given way to a period where action and accountability are at the forefront. As public opinion continues to evolve, so too must the practices of individuals and corporations if we are to meet the challenges posed by climate change head-on.


Stephen Bohnet is based in Truckee and is a co-founder of F’inn.  He has worked in research and consulting for 30 years, helping companies bring new products and services to the world. F’inn self-funds passion projects, and along with this work on sustainability, is funding research on mental health and R&D on AI.  For more information on the survey discussed, visit https://www.finn-group.com/sustainability.

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