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Ouch! Survey shows 45% of the UK want to pay nothing at all for climate adaption funds.

Posted By Joanne Nova On December 9, 2015 @ 2:33 am In Global Warming | Comments Disabled

When asked about paying for developing nations to adapt to climate change, the 1066 British people surveyed said they were willing to give an average of only £27  ($30US)  a year. This is far below the UN gambit that hopes to take as much as $150 per head per year. But even that £27 figure is deceptively high. The real story is that the number was skewed up by a few people who were willing to pay a lot each. Nearly half the crowd didn’t want to give a cent. The median value was a paltry £6 per year.  And this was in a test loaded with nice and authoritative messages about how useful those payments would be. Fully 45% of Brits surveyed did not want to contribute anything at all. (The figure is probably similar in the US, and people wonder why Trump is so popular?)

The question is about the public Willingness to Pay (WTP) and the answer is “negligible”:

Overall, taking all responses together, results show that respondents are willing to pay about £27 per year in income taxes to support adaptation efforts in developing countries. This is equivalent to $29.37, using  purchasing power adjustments (World Bank 2014), significantly less than the back-of-the- envelope $100$150 per capita (based on the World Bank adaptation cost estimates discussed earlier). However, if we take the median WTP of £6 per year as our statistic of choice, with the understanding that support for developing country adaptation would depend on majority (at least 50%) support from the public, then it is clear that public support for developing adaptation is negligible.

The subtext of this survey is the finding that only 43% of UK people surveyed agree with the IPCC. Fifty-seven percent are skeptics. This fits reasonably well with a larger, and more neutral survey in the UK showing that 62% are skeptical of man-made climate change.

UK, Climate poll, belief in man made global warming, Survey, 2015.

Figure 2. Personal belief about climate change (CC) (% respondents who chose statement). Total sample size D 1066.

Apparently the big problem was that 31% of Brits think climate change is mostly natural, which is something the researchers say is “wrong”:

Clearly, much needs to be done to motivate people to lend support to those who  despite contributing relatively little to global carbon emissions – are likely to bear the brunt of climate change impacts. However, regression results on our data suggest that this will be no easy task. Together with ability to pay, WTP appears to be strongly driven by a combination of beliefs and individuals’ perception of their own knowledge levels, rather than actual knowledge of climate change or education levels. In particular, a belief that nature is the main cause of climate change appears to have a strong negative influence on the decision whether to contribute or not.

The researchers don’t know why the skeptics don’t want to pay, and essentially suggest, in the politest possible way, that they might be selfish, uncaring and immoral people. They wonder if skeptics rationalize their scroogelike behaviour by strategically adopting the belief that man-made warming is natural? What petty small minded people those skeptics would be… so unlike the noble researchers who speculate about complex sub-conscious mental defects in people they have no data on:

Interestingly, a belief in nature as the main cause of climate change (31% of the entire sample)
has a strong negative influence on participation overall. Perhaps, this suggests a fatalistic attitude of
those with such beliefs. Or perhaps the causality lies in the opposite direction: those who do not
wish to support adaptation projects for vulnerable others, justify their choices by explaining climate
change as natural phenomenon. This would suggest that, for these respondents, moral responsibility
for others is excused by the presence of some external factor (in this case, nature) over which the
respondent feels they have no control (Eshleman 2014). One might consider this a form of ‘strategic’
fatalism. Whatever the reason for this interesting result, however, the implication is clear: a belief
that climate change is caused by nature allows some people to absolve themselves of responsibility
towards those who will be negatively impacted by climate change.

The researchers do not suggest that skeptics don’t want to pay because they know the models are wrong, the scientists behave badly, and it’s quite likely that the world will cool instead, which rather mucks up those “adaption” plans. I guess they didn’t google “Climate skeptics” for ten minutes before they wrote their paper. (And nor did any of the “peer reviewers”.)

The researchers define “real knowledge” as agreeing with the consensus. How big is that confirmation bias?

In terms of differences in how respondents prefer to contribute, we note that greater real knowledge
relating to climate change (indicated by agreement with the statement ‘Carbon dioxide emissions
are the main cause of climate change’) influences the likelihood of contributing towards the
WAF, whereas this has no influence on likelihood of contributing towards the individual programmes
(compared to not contributing at all).

The WAF, by the way, is the Worldwide Adaption Fund – (a hypothetical entity at this stage, but that may change in a day or two):

Suppose there was a Worldwide Adaptation Fund – an international institution responsible for overseeing the
implementation and management of Adaptation Programmes across the globe. These Adaptation   programmes would be designed to alleviate the negative impacts of climate change on nature and the environment, agriculture, human health and the built environment. Funding for these Adaptation  programmes would come from all individual countries as a percentage of their GDP. This means that everyone would have to pay a little more income tax.

Looks like the skeptics have won one round:

Curiously, the paper starts by telling us that nobody liked the idea of doing much to “adapt” to climate change, except a couple of people called Tol and Pielke, but lately even the IPCC has seen the wisdom of their ideas.

1. Introduction
Until fairly recently, the policy of adaptation to climate change was largely considered ethically suspect, and sidelined in favour of its more noble cousin, mitigation (Pielke et al. 2007; Tol 2005). However, as climate-related risks have become more certain and real, adaptation has gained acceptance as a realistic and  necessary policy alongside mitigation (Pielke et al. 2007) a fact particularly highlighted in the recent IPCC report (IPCC 2014).

The futile, herculean task of mitigation, or controlling the climate by reducing CO2, was much more appealing to big-government lovers, and ahem, so much more “ethical”.  It hit the trifecta, it punished independent companies, and helped dependent ones (renewables). And the trading schemes were a bureaucrats wet-dream, a government controlled market to dish out rewards to patrons and to punish the critics.


Climate change adaptation is gaining traction as a necessary policy alongside mitigation, particularly for developing countries, many of which lack the resources to adapt. However, funding for developing country
adaptation remains woefully inadequate. This paper identifies the burden of responsibility that individuals in the UK are willing to incur in support of adaptation projects in developing countries. Results from a  nationally representative survey indicate that UK residents are willing to contribute £27 per year (or a median of £6 per year) towards developing country adaptation (US$30 and $7 using the World Bank’s purchasing power conversion factors). This represents less than one-third of the back-of-the envelope
$100$140 per capita per year that the authors estimate would be needed to raise the $70$100 bn/yr recommended by the World Bank to fund developing country adaptation. Regressions indicate that
willingness to pay is driven mostly by a combination of beliefs and perceptions about one’s own knowledge levels, rather than actual knowledge of climate change. We conclude that, to engage the many different audiences that make up the ‘public’, communication efforts must move beyond the simple provision of information and instead, connect  with people’s existing values and beliefs.


Are we willing to give what it takes? Willingness to pay for climate change adaptation in developing countries
Journal of Environmental Economics and Policy, Tanya O’Garra & Susana Mourato, published by Taylor & Francis  DOI: 10.1080/21606544.2015.1100560


PS: We can argue the toss over the exact definition of a skeptic and the varying degrees with which they disagree with the consensus, but both Richard Tol and Roger Pielke have DeSmog pages. What more do they need?

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