Experience of extreme weather affects climate change mitigation and adaptation responses

Christina Demski, Stuart Capstick, Nick Pidgeon, Robert Gennaro Sposato, Alexa Spence

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256 Citations (SciVal)


The winter of 2013/2014 saw a series of severe storms hit the UK, leading to widespread flooding, a major emergency response and extensive media exposure. Previous research indicates that experiencing extreme weather events has the potential to heighten engagement with climate change, however the process by which this occurs remains largely unknown, and establishing a clear causal relationship from experience to perceptions is methodologically challenging. The UK winter flooding offered a natural experiment to examine this question in detail. We compare individuals personally affected by flooding (n = 162) to a nationally representative sample (n = 975). We show that direct experience of flooding leads to an overall increased salience of climate change, pronounced emotional responses and greater perceived personal vulnerability and risk perceptions. We also present the first evidence that direct flooding experience can give rise to behavioural intentions beyond individual sustainability actions, including support for mitigation policies, and personal climate adaptation in matters unrelated to the direct experience.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)149-164
Number of pages16
JournalClimatic Change
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported by a research grant from the Economic and Social Research Council (ES/M005135/1) as well as the Climate Change Consortium of Wales (C3W) and the Cardiff Sustainable Places Research Institute. The authors wish to thank members of the advisory panel, Pete Bailey, George Marshall, Dr. Adam Corner, Dr. Katharine Steentjes and Ipsos MORI for assistance with the survey and analysis; as well as Dr Shantini Paranjothy for invaluable advice on how to measure flooding experiences.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016, The Author(s).

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Atmospheric Science


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