Most suburban residents are worried about climate change, but we’re still not talking about it, study says

The latest survey data is in, and the majority of Chicago's suburban residents continue to believe that climate change is happening — but fewer people report they have personally experienced the effects of global warming, and even fewer talk about global warming with their friends and peers, according to a study released today out of the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.

At the same time, these trends in climate change beliefs and risk perceptions are rising in most states, including Illinois.

Since 2010, the percentage of adults in the state who think global warming is happening rose about 12 percentage points, from about 62% to 74%. The same rise was seen in the percentage of adults who have personally experienced global warming, from about 32% to 44%.

While some trends are rising, other questions of interest such as whether people “discuss global warming at least occasionally” are stagnant.

“People are still not talking about it. It's only 36% (nationwide) who say they talk about this issue, at least occasionally. And people are still not hearing about it in the media – that's only 32%,” senior research scientist Jennifer Marlon said. “We're not talking about it more, and if anything, we're talking about it a little bit less in some states, which to me was really shocking.”

Alongside national and statewide data, the study also includes data as local as individual counties and congressional districts, allowing people to click around a map and find out, for instance, that 49% of Cook County residents say they have experienced climate change, compared to only 40% of McHenry County residents.

Across counties, some of the most agreed-upon opinions concern policy: 80% of DuPage residents support generating renewable energy on public land in the U.S., alongside 84% of Cook, 83% of Lake, 79% of McHenry and 80% of Kane, DuPage and Will counties.

The latest Yale Climate Opinions Map gives an update on public opinion on statements like “Climate change is happening” and "Global warming is caused mostly by human activities." Additional results, down to the county, are available at Yale Program on Climate Change Communication

With the 2024 U.S. election on the horizon, Marlon said tracking public opinion on climate change is more important than ever.

“This is a democracy, still. ... Even though people often feel like their voice may not matter so much or their hope may not matter so much, politicians do care what their constituents think,” she said.

She added that it’s critical for politicians to understand climate change is a priority for many millions of people.

“People are truly worried and they're becoming more worried. There's a trajectory, and politicians always want to know which way the wind is blowing. It's important for them to realize this issue is not going away. If anything, it’s becoming more salient,” Marlon said. “The next four years are just going to be really instrumental and critical because the carbon that goes up now is going to stay in the air for hundreds of years.”

With that in mind, the research team added two questions to the survey this year, one being the question on renewable energy on public land.

The other was “developing clean energy should be a high priority for the president and Congress.” The results in the Chicago area were in the majority, with 63% of adults in McHenry County agreeing, alongside 68% of Kane, 72% DuPage, 67% of Will, and 70% of Cook and Lake Counties.

Conversely, those numbers dip by as much as 13 percentage points when considering the question, “global warming should be a priority for the next president and Congress.”

“Political words are kind of like a cue. Even just using the words global warming can set some people off, and yet when you talk about this specific policy, they' say, ‘We want that,’” Marlon said. “That's good, but it just speaks to the importance of the language that we use.”

The Yale Climate Opinion Maps 2023 can be found at

• Jenny Whidden is a climate change and environment writer working with the Daily Herald through a partnership with Report For America supported by The Nature Conservancy. To help support her work with a tax-deductible donation, see

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