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The UK summer heatwave of 2018 and public concern over energy security


The UK summer heatwave of 2018 led to changes in consumer behaviour, including large increases in electricity demand due to increased use and intensity of refrigeration and air-conditioning devices1,2. Although the United Kingdom experienced its equal hottest summer on record, the extreme temperatures were concentrated in the south and east of England3. Here we exploit the regional variation to test for the effect of experiencing extreme temperatures on perceptions of resource security and on related pro-environmental behaviour. We analyse data from 2,189 individuals across the UK over a 7 day period and use a difference-in-differences estimation to compare responses of individuals in regions subjected to extreme temperatures with those of individuals in regions that were not subjected to extreme temperatures4. We show that exposure to extreme temperatures had a large and statistically significant effect on perceptions of energy security but not on stated pro-environmental behaviour. We find less evidence that extreme temperatures had an effect on perceptions of food and water security.

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Data availability

Our data agreement with the UK Met Office precludes the release of raw temperature data. A processed dataset and replication files are available in figshare with the identifier https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.7482614 (ref. 27).

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Journal peer review information: Nature Climate Change thanks Christina Demski, Salvatore Di Falco and the other anonymous reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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We are grateful to ResearchNow for their assistance in conducting the survey from their panel of interviewees and to the UK Met Office for providing access to Areal temperature data. This work was supported by the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) (grant numbers EP/N005961/1 and EP/N0050600/1) and the Department of Politics and Public Administration at the University of Hong Kong (research account 293010000).

Author information

All authors contributed equally to the production of this manuscript and order of authorship has been assigned on an alphabetical basis.

Correspondence to Shaun Larcom.

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  1. Supplementary Information

    Supplementary Figures 1–12 and Supplementary Tables 1–22

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Fig. 1: Average maximum daily temperatures.