Recent studies have suggested that people who experience the impacts of hurricanes, catastrophic flooding or other severe weather events are more likely to believe in, and be concerned about, climate change in the wake of the disaster.
But a new study by researchers at Duke University and the University of Colorado Denver (UCD) finds that not all severe weather impacts have the same effect.
“How our community or neighborhood fares — the damages it suffers — may have a stronger and more lasting effect on our climate beliefs than individual impacts do,” said Elizabeth A. Albright, assistant professor of the practice of environmental science and policy methods at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment.
“We found that damage at the zip-code level as measured by FEMA was positively associated with stronger climate change beliefs even three or four years after the extreme flooding event our study examined,” Albright said.
People who perceived that damage had occurred at such a broad scale were more likely to believe that climate change is a problem and is causing harm, she explained. They were also more likely to perceive a greater risk of future flooding in their community.
In contrast, individual losses such as damage to one’s own house appeared to have a negligible long-term impact on climate change beliefs and perceptions of future risks.