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Wednesday September 16 General

New research: More Americans think climate change poses a long-term threat to society than COVID-19

September 16 2020, New York City – More Americans think climate change poses a long-term threat to society than COVID-19 – 55% versus 44% respectively.

This is according to new research released today by YouGov and international non-profit, the Climate Group, which surveyed over 1,000 adults across the US to find out how COVID-19 has impacted views on tackling climate change. In particular, the findings come ahead of Climate Week NYC (Sept 21 – Sept 27), the only major international climate summit in 2020. Over 400 events will be run virtually to ensure the US and the world continue to keep climate on the agenda in spite of the pandemic.

On the whole, nearly seven in ten respondents (69%) think climate action is just as, if not more, important now compared to before the virus outbreak.

Climate justice

Given the deep-rooted inequalities that COVID has exposed within the US as well as the wider world, it is interesting to see that close to half (47%) of Americans also acknowledge that climate change will impact some groups more negatively than others. In particular, those on low incomes (62%), people with health conditions or disabilities (59%) and those in developing countries (59%) were cited as being the groups of people who they believe will be most negatively impacted by global warming. Two in five (40%) think Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) will be adversely affected, while one in ten (11%) think women will be worse off. Following this, two-thirds (67%) believe it’s important that tackling climate change is done so in a way that is fair to everyone from all levels of society globally.

Political trust

It seems the federal government’s handling of COVID is raising wider concerns. Over a third (35%) say they now trust the government less in their ability to tackle the climate crisis compared to before the pandemic. However faith in state governments paints a different picture. Almost double the number of respondents say they trust their state government to tackle the climate crisis compared to the federal government (19% versus 10%). This is particularly the case in California and New York, where both states are known to have set net zero targets and are rolling out pro-climate policies. Here, triple the number of residents say they trust their state government more than the national government to take climate action.[1]

Green recovery

Many Americans (58%) feel there should be some form of green strings attached to economic recovery post pandemic[2], with only 18% saying the government shouldn’t worry about addressing climate in recovery plans. Specifically, nearly a third (31%) think financial support should be prioritized for businesses that are cutting greenhouse gas emissions and creating green jobs. Overall, more than double the number of Americans think climate action will have a positive impact on the economy and job market, compared to those who hold opposite views: half (49%) say tackling climate change will be good for the economy (21% disagree), while 46% think it will open up job opportunities for blue collar workers (18% disagree).

Business action

Despite seeing significant examples of corporate leadership on climate, the overall consensus is more needs to be done. While one in five (20%) think big US companies are doing enough to tackle climate change, over half (55%) feel the opposite. A similar number (56%) think they should be addressing climate change with the same, if not greater, sense of urgency as COVID. And a key action that nearly one in two (47%) Americans think businesses should take to tackle climate change is creating green jobs.

With high profile business and government leaders from around the world set to attend Climate Week NYC next week, ambitious announcements and commitments are anticipated, encouraging others to do more.

Helen Clarkson, CEO of international non-profit the Climate Group and organizers of Climate Week NYC, said:

“Americans agree that we need to continue to fight climate change at the same time as tackling a global health pandemic. The single biggest opportunity to grow back our economies out of a global recession and secure our future comes from investing in climate-forward policies.

People don’t want to go back to the way things were. And we know from our partners, including over 350 multinationals and more than 200 states and regions from around the world, that their commitment to climate overwhelmingly remains, but there’s a clear demand for more action and accountability. Climate Week NYC will provide that critical opportunity to bring together CEOs and policymakers to focus on what they can collectively do to rebuild a greener, fairer future.”

The survey results also show a clear sense that climate change is regarded as more than just a problem for the environment.[3] Nearly one in two (47%) classify it as a human rights issue, and an even greater number (61%) think it’s a health issue. With the US election approaching, it’s also interesting to see both Democrats and Republicans equally believe climate change is a political issue (59% and 58% respectively).


Notes to Editors


[1] 31% of respondents in California say they trust their state government most to tackle climate change compared to only 10% for the federal government. Similarly, 36% of respondents in New York trust their state government with climate action, compared to 8% trusting the federal government with this.

[2] This figure is based on respondents who said they agree with one of the following statements: - The government should not use taxpayer money to rescue fossil fuel companies and highly polluting industries - The government shouldn't worry about addressing the Climate Crisis in its economic recovery plans - The government should prioritize financial support for businesses that are cutting greenhouse gas emissions and creating green jobs

[3] Responses to the following statements about the effects of climate change include: - 67% agree that climate change is an environmental issue - 61% agree that climate change is an economic issue - 61% agree that climate change is a health issue - 55% agree that climate change is a political issue - 47% agree that climate change is a human rights issue.


The Climate Group commissioned YouGov to undertake market research among 1,281 US adults (18+). The data included quotas by age, gender, region, and was weighted to be nationally representative. Fieldwork was undertaken between August 26 – 28, 2020. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all US adults (aged 18+). Data tables are available on request and will be published online.

Media enquiries

For any Climate Week NYC enquiries, including interview requests, please contact media@theclimategroup.org.

Climate Week NYC 2020 Sponsors

Walmart, Opening Ceremony Sponsor; ENGIE Impact, The Hub Live Sponsor; Unilever, Platinum Sponsor; LONGi Group, Platinum Sponsor; L’Oréal, Platinum Sponsor; McKinsey & Company, Knowledge Partner; Johnson & Johnson, Gold Sponsor; S&P Global, Gold Sponsor; AstraZeneca, Gold Sponsor; AB InBev, Gold Sponsor; The Estée Lauder Companies, Gold Sponsor; JinkoSolar, Gold Sponsor; Amazon, Gold Sponsor; AT&T, Silver Sponsor; Google, Silver Sponsor; Edison International, Silver Sponsor; Bank of America, Silver Sponsor; Morrison & Foerster, Silver Sponsor; Trane Technologies, Silver Sponsor; International Copper Association, Silver Sponsor; One Earth, Silver Sponsor; Signify, Supporter Sponsor; Sungrow, Supporter Sponsor; NYC & Company, Sustainable Travel and Tourism Program Partner; Global Citizen, Youth, Public Mobilization and Justice Program Partner; American Museum of Natural History, Nature and Science Program Partner; Columbia University, US and International Policy Program Partner; Ørsted, Clean Energy Transition Program Partner; Environmental Defense Fund, Finance, Investment and Jobs Program Partner; The Nest Summit, Official Event Partner; We Mean Business, Supporting Partner; Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Supporting Partner; Facebook, Social Engagement Partner; The New Republic, Media Partner.

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