Earth Day–a day set aside to officially demonstrate support for environmental protection–rolls around every April 22nd. While the most recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change shows the dangers of climate change are only mounting, CivicScience data reveal that the population’s concern about climate issues has waned greatly over the past two years.

Examining data collected from 2016 onwards, the yearly percentage of those who self-reported they are very concerned about climate change and the environment starting dropping in 2020 and continues to do so as of April 2022. In total, this figure has dropped 12 points.

We know that in 2022, there are many concerns weighing on the psyche of Americans. When the pandemic struck the globe in March of 2020, CivicScience started tracking levels of concern about many attributes, such as concern about being in public spaces and worries over catching the virus. CivicScience data show COVID concerns are now waning as case numbers have dropped, while concerns about gas and energy prices and inflation have taken center stage and impact consumers’ day to day. Additionally, people are concerned about the war in Ukraine as well as crime and violence in their own communities.

But what could be driving the reduced concern about the climate crisis? Is it just too many things to worry about in general? Is it a way of self-preservation for decreased overall well-being? While we can’t say it’s one thing for certain, the data point to an interesting finding. Around the time the figure of those very concerned about the effects of climate change dropped, an uptick in the percentage of those very concerned about gas and energy prices can be observed.

Reasons why could vary, but perhaps as American consumers become more concerned about gas and energy prices, they are caring less about climate change if it means they have to spend more money. Unlike climate change, it’s an issue that is directly impacting people’s wallets today. 

Additionally, when gas prices go up, people drive less overall. In other words, it’s possible that people think that because they’re driving less, it’s better for the environment, therefore they’re not as concerned about the broader issue of climate change. While it may not be fully conscious, this could be a leading factor in shifting concerns for these issues. 

How these dynamics shift as gas prices stabilize and/or if the U.S. sees a recession in the coming years is tough to say. CivicScience will continue to track these issues and more.