Special Project

Global Warming - Israelis Concerned

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As part of IDI's 'Israel 2050' initiative, a new survey finds that the majority of Israelis are concerned about the risks of global warming and believe that their government should act accordingly.

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The survey was conducted as part of Israel 2050: A Flourishing Economy in a Sustainable Environment, a project being conducted by the Israel Democracy Institute in collaboration with the Ministry of the Environment and other government agencies (the Ministries of the Economy, Energy, and Transportation, and the Planning Administration). The project deals with the preparations by the Israeli economy to reduce carbon emissions and to draw up strategic plan and policy objectives for the year 2050 which Israel must to submit to the United Nations by the end of 2020.

The public opinion poll was conducted by the Social Eye team at the Israel Democracy Institute, for inclusion in a more extensive report being written by an IDI research team at working on a study on “A Fair Transition to a Low-carbon Economy in Israel.” This document will be released to the public in December 2020 and will be presented in part at the Eli Hurvitz Conference on Economy and Society (December 14-16, 2020). The public opinion poll was designed to examine the Israeli public’s willingness to engage in a process to reduce carbon emissions.

Main Findings

Awareness of the climate crisis

• A large majority of the public (75%) agrees that there is a link between polluting emissions and climate change. A similar percentage believes that the Israeli government should take steps to deal with global warning; about half agree "very strongly" with this statement.

• Similarly, a majority of the public (72%) believes that humanity is at risk because of climate change and global warming. More than half (54%) believe that the climate crisis is the next crisis with which we will have to deal. 

• Although a majority of the ultra-Orthodox (65%) believes there is a link between polluting emissions and climate change, this percentage is lower than that among other groups in the population. About half of the ultra-Orthodox believe that humanity is endangered by climate change and that the Israeli government must take steps to deal with it.

• The percentage of those who believe the Israeli government should take steps to deal with the climate crisis increases with age, with household income, and with educational level. A similar trend is found for other aspects of awareness of climate change.

• The percentage of those who believe that the Israeli government should be taking steps to deal with global warming is particularly high among residents of the Haifa District and the North and among those who define themselves as on the political left.

How worried are you by the climate crisis?

• Most of the public (70%) is concerned about the increase in disease and epidemics against the backdrop of the climate crisis (by the increase in air pollution (63%), by the blow to the economic situation of weaker populations all over the world as a result of the climate crisis, by the destruction of the earth as a habitable environment (60%–61%), and by the shortage of natural resources and natural raw materials (56%).

• Among Arabs, the percentage concerned about the rise in air pollution is particularly high, 72%, as compared with 64% of Jews who are not ultra-Orthodox, and only 38% of the ultra-Orthodox.

• Residents of the Haifa district are significantly more concerned than other Israelis about disease and epidemics (82%), by the increase in air pollution (80%), and by the blow to the economic situation of weaker populations as a result of the climate crisis (79%). In the Northern District as well, the percentage of those worried about these issues was higher than for the country as a whole.

Who bears the responsibility for reducing air pollution?

• A majority of the public (81%) sees the gas and oil companies and power plants as bearing the main responsibility for taking steps to reduce air pollution in Israel, along with Israeli industry in general (76%).

• The public sees the government as next in line in terms of responsibility. The government is perceived as bearing a "great" to "very great" responsibility to take steps to reduce air pollution in Israel, especially the Energy, Transportation, and Environment ministries (73% of the public assign them "great" to "very great" responsibility).

• The public is also aware of the responsibility of individuals to take steps to reduce air pollution: about 60% assign responsibility to those who travel by private motor vehicles, and 58% to the public itself—each person individually.

Willingness for personal involvement

• The public expressed strong willingness to separate trash for recycling on a regular basis if the recycle bins are near their homes (77%). This willingness declines significantly if the bins are some distance away, though the figure is still more than half (53%). The willingness of the Arab sector to practice recycling, even if the bins are far from their homes, stands out (67%) as opposed to the much lower willingness of the ultra-Orthodox (29%). The willingness to separate trash for recycling increases with age.

• The public also expresses a strong willingness (61%) to stop using disposable utensils and dishes, but among the ultra-Orthodox this figure falls dramatically (37%). The percentage of those willing to do so increases with age and with income.

• The public’s willingness to cut back on travel in private vehicles in order to reduce air pollution, even if this makes the trip longer and less convenient, is relatively low (45%), with the Arab sector slightly more willing (55%) than Jews who are not ultra-Orthodox (45%). Among the ultra-Orthodox, the percentage of those not willing to do so (49%) actually exceeds that of those who are willing (26%). The percentage of persons willing to reduce travel by private vehicle increases with age.

• On the other hand, the public did not agree to the imposition of a 30-sheqel congestion fee for the entry of private vehicles into urban downtowns and for travel on major highways at peak traffic times.

• Similarly, the public did not agree to switch to a system of payment for trash removal based on the quantity of trash produced by each household rather than as a fixed payment levied through the municipal property tax, as is the case today.

• Despite the findings of the survey, climate change and environmental quality are not a major consideration for voters in Knesset and or local elections: only 30% and 33%, respectively, take them into account when they go to vote.

Willingness to bear a financial burden

• Israelis demonstrate a strong willingness to pay a price in order to reduce polluting emissions. A majority (73%) is willing to pay for the installation of solar panels on the roofs of their homes in return for a permanent discount on their electric bill (the willingness to do so increases with household income). About two-thirds are willing to buy a cleaner motor vehicle in order to reduce polluting emissions and benefit from lower energy costs (reduced outlay on fuel), even if the vehicle itself costs more.

• More than half of the public agree that products that do not meet the Green Standard should be taxed, as an incentive to encourage a switch to the use of less polluting products, even if this would increase the price of products to the consumer. A similar percentage (52%–53%) would be willing to spend more on housing (rent or purchase price) in order to live in a building adhering to the Green Standard, and thereby save on their electric and water bills. About half the public would even be willing to pay higher city taxes in order to add shade and parks in their neighborhoods. Only 44% support a tax on electricity producers (pollution tax) in order to accelerate a switch to clean energy, if this would raise their electricity bill.

• The price increases that respondents said they would be willing to pay in order to reduce polluting emissions range from 9% to 12%. This willingness reflects the prevailing mood in the public. However, we should view this figure with some caution, since there is a gulf between what people say to poll-takers and the situation in real life, when consumers are actually forced to pay more for an apartment built to the green standard or for “green” products and services.

What should be done with the revenues of a carbon tax?

• Most of the public (75%) prefers that state revenues from a carbon tax be directed to a discount on household utility bills and for financial assistance to help households transition to the use of green and more economical energy (solar energy, insulation, purchase of a “greener” motor vehicle).

• The public also supports a policy that focuses on the weaker segments of the population and earmarks the tax revenues from polluting emissions to reducing taxes for low-income families (72%).

• In addition, the public supports directing revenues from pollution taxes to fund environmental infrastructure projects (69%). A similar percent supports assistance for new industries in green sectors as a way to guarantee future employment, and cutting taxes on a uniform across-the-board basis for all, such as by reducing value-added tax (67%/68%).

• A relatively smaller percentage (62%) supports earmarking the revenues from pollution taxes for grants or subsidies to encourage companies to invest in the development of clean technologies or to pay incentives to companies to become more efficient in their use of resources and to switch to clean energy (60%).

The Climate Change Crisis survey is based on a representative sample of the Israeli population, and included 1009 respondents. It was conducted online on November 8–14, 2020. A total of 842 men and women were interviewed in Hebrew and 167 in Arabic, constituting a representative national sample of the entire adult population in Israel, aged 18 and up. The maximum sampling error for the survey population as a whole is plus ±3.15%, with level of 95% (Jews ±3.4%, Arabs ±7.7). The fieldwork was conducted by the Smith Institute, directed by Rafi Smith. The data file is available at Data Israel.