Do Flood and Heatwave Experiences Shape Climate Opinion? Causal Evidence from Flooding and Heatwaves in England and Wales


Understanding how personal experience of extreme weather events raises awareness and concern about climate change has important policy implications. It has repeatedly been argued that proximising climate change through extreme weather events holds a promising strategy to increase engagement with the issue and encourage climate change action. In this paper, we exploit geo-referenced panel data on climate change attitudes as well as natural variation in flood and heatwave exposure in England and Wales to estimate the causal effect of extreme weather events on climate change attitudes and environmental behaviours using a difference-in-differences matching approach. Our findings suggest that personal experience with both flooding and heatwaves significantly increases risk perception towards climate change impacts but has no effect on climate change concern or pro-environmental behaviour, on average. Moreover, the findings indicate that the effect of flooding on risk perception is highly localised and diminishes at greater distances. For heatwaves, we find that the effect on risk perception is driven by the recent salient summer heatwaves of 2018 and 2019. Having experienced both events also significantly increases climate change concern and pro-environmental behaviour, in addition to risk perception.

Environmental and Resource Economics, 86
Paul Lohmann
Paul Lohmann
Research Associate

My research interests include behavioural environmental economics and field experiments.