Experiences of extreme weather events increase climate change concernPublished On: Tue, Mar 22nd, 2011 | Climate Change | By BioNews
A new study has found that direct experience of extreme weather events increases concern about climate change and willingness to engage in energy-saving behaviour.
The research by Cardiff and Nottingham Universities found that members of the public are more prepared to take personal action and reduce their energy use when they perceive their local area has a greater vulnerability to flooding.
Although no single flooding event can be attributed to climate change, Britain has experienced a series of major flood events over the past decade, something that is expected to increase in years to come as a result of climate change.
“We know that many people tend to see climate change as distant, affecting other people and places. However, experiences of extreme weather events like flooding have the potential to change the way people view climate change, by making it more real and tangible, and ultimately resulting in greater intentions to act in sustainable ways,” said psychologist Alexa Spence, now at The University of Nottingham.
The researchers and Ipsos-MORI surveyed 1,822 members of the British public to test whether personal experience of flooding had affected perceptions about climate change.
They also looked at whether those perceptions would affect respondents’ intentions regarding energy use.
The study revealed that people who reported flooding experiences had significantly different perceptions of climate change, compared to those who had not experienced flooding.
These perceptions were, in turn related to a greater preparedness to save energy.
“This important study provides the first solid evidence for something which has been suspected for some time – that people”s local experience of climate related events such as flooding will promote higher awareness of the issue. As a result, it suggests new ways for engaging people with this most important and pressing of environmental issues,” said Prof Nick Pidgeon, School of Psychology, Cardiff University, who led the research team.
The new study is published in the first edition of the journal Nature Climate Change this week.