Collision of Lofty Rhetoric and Everyday Life

It’s always interesting when news media amplified political rhetoric slams up against the practical reality of the lives of everyday people.

The shopworn topic of climate change received renewed interest recently with the promotion of a “Green New Deal” by some newly elected members of Congress. With it came renewed warnings of the apocalypse.

To avert our demise due to climate change, a majority of Americans are willing to pay… $1 a month. That’s according to a News Week story in January about a recent poll on climate change. It was reported that “While 57 percent of those surveyed would contribute $1 a month to combat global warming, that number drops significantly when monetary contribution increases.”

More affluent households were willing to pay more.

This poll tracks with local polling done by the Chamber in mid-December. When residents were asked “What would you say is the most serious problem facing the Fort Collins community today?” the environment and climate was mentioned by very few people.

In short, news stories to the contrary, climate change is not a top of mind concern for most people. Instead, and this shouldn’t be a surprise, the average citizen worries about the cost of things like housing and congestion on local streets and I-25.

The Chamber poll also asked people “To achieve the (City’s) goal of 20 percent reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020 and 80 percent by 2030, how much more are you willing to pay on your monthly electric bill in dollars?” Seventy-one percent would pay $10 or less per month. Of that number, 24 percent said an emphatic ‘zero more.’

None of this is to say people don’t care about the environment. On the contrary, suss out the data, and it’s clear they do.

It’s just that the practical everyday concerns of people get over-shadowed. At their kids’ bus stop, one suspects the conversation may touch more on traffic, housing, and the cost of childcare than the latest U.N. climate report.

Still, there’s a lot of special interest focus on climate change. It will undoubtedly be on display during the upcoming city council elections. Here’s a plea to candidates make room for the more mundane but real pocketbook issues that are more top-of-mind.