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Perceptions of climate change and willingness to save energy related to flood experience

Nature Climate Change volume 1, pages 4649 (2011) | Download Citation


One of the reasons that people may not take action to mitigate climate change is that they lack first-hand experience of its potential consequences. From this perspective, individuals who have direct experience of phenomena that may be linked to climate change would be more likely to be concerned by the issue and thus more inclined to undertake sustainable behaviours. So far, the evidence available to test this hypothesis is limited, and in part contradictory1,2,3,4. Here we use national survey data collected from 1,822 individuals across the UK in 2010, to examine the links between direct flooding experience, perceptions of climate change and preparedness to reduce energy use. We show that those who report experience of flooding express more concern over climate change, see it as less uncertain and feel more confident that their actions will have an effect on climate change. Importantly, these perceptual differences also translate into a greater willingness to save energy to mitigate climate change. Highlighting links between local weather events and climate change is therefore likely to be a useful strategy for increasing concern and action.

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This research was supported by a research grant from the Economic and Social Research Council (RES-062-23-1134) as well as a Climate Change Leader Fellowship (RES-066-27-0013) and a major grant to the Understanding Risk research group from the Leverhulme Trust (F/00 407/AG). Further support was received from Horizon Digital Economy Research, RCUK grant (EP/G065802/1). The authors also wish to thank D. Venables, N. Vaughan and Ipsos MORI for assistance with the survey.

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  1. Horizon Digital Economy Research/School of Psychology, University of Nottingham, Nottingham NG7 2TU, UK

    • A. Spence
  2. Welsh School of Architecture/School of Psychology, Cardiff University, Cardiff CF10 3AT, UK

    • W. Poortinga
  3. Understanding Risk Research Group, School of Psychology, Cardiff University, Cardiff CF10 3AT, UK

    • C. Butler
    •  & N. F. Pidgeon


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All authors contributed to the design of the survey used within the work presented. A.S., N.F.P. and W.P. organized and managed the data collection. A.S. analysed the data. A.S. led in writing the paper, developing this with input from all authors.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to A. Spence or N. F. Pidgeon.

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