Letter | Published:

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

Abstract

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.

Access optionsAccess options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

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).

Additional information

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.

Publisher’s note: Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

References

  1. 1.

    UK weather: what are the effects of a heatwave? BBC News https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-44680164 (2018).

  2. 2.

    Heatwave boosts British power demand. Reuters https://www.reuters.com/article/us-britain-weather-electricity/heatwave-boosts-british-power-demand-report-idUSKBN1KH1MP (2018).

  3. 3.

    Was summer 2018 the hottest on record? UK Met Office https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/about-us/press-office/news/weather-and-climate/2018/end-of-summer-stats (2018).

  4. 4.

    Dell, M., Jones, B. & Olken, B. What do we learn from the weather? The new climate-economy literature. J. Econ. Lit. 52, 740–798 (2014).

  5. 5.

    Bazilian, M. et al. Considering the energy, water and food nexus: towards an integrated modelling approach. Energy Policy 39, 7896–7906 (2011).

  6. 6.

    Howells, M. et al. Integrated analysis of climate change, land-use, energy and water strategies. Nat. Clim. Change 3, 621–626 (2013).

  7. 7.

    Deryugina, T. How do people update? The effects of local weather fluctuations on beliefs about global warming. Climatic Change 118, 397–416 (2013).

  8. 8.

    Bordalo, P., Gennaioli, N. & Shleifer, A. Salience theory of choice under risk. Q. J. Econ. 127, 1243–1285 (2012).

  9. 9.

    Bordalo, P., Gennaioli, N. & Shleifer, A. Salience and consumer choice. J. Polit. Econ. 121, 803–843 (2013).

  10. 10.

    Hansen, J., Sato, M. & Ruedy, R. Perception of climate change. Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA 109, E2415–E2423 (2012).

  11. 11.

    Spence, A., Poortinga, W., Butler, C. & Pidgeon, N. Perceptions of climate change and willingness to save energy related to flood experience. Nat. Clim. Change 1, 46–49 (2011).

  12. 12.

    Lee, T., Markowitz, E., Howe, P., Ko, C. & Leiserowitz, A. Predictors of public climate change awareness and risk perception around the world. Nat. Clim. Change 5, 1014–1020 (2015).

  13. 13.

    Zanocco, C. et al. Place, proximity and perceived harm: extreme weather events and views about climate change. Climatic Change 149, 349–365 (2018).

  14. 14.

    Howe, P. Perceptions of seasonal weather are linked to beliefs about global climate change: evidence from Norway. Climatic Change 148, 467–480 (2018).

  15. 15.

    Demski, C., Capstick, S., Pidgeon, N., Sposato, R. & Spence, A. Experiences of extreme weather affects climate change mitigation and adaptation responses. Climatic Change 140, 149–164 (2017).

  16. 16.

    Burke, M. & Emerick, K. Adaptation to climate change: evidence from US agriculture. Am. Econ. J. 8, 106–140 (2016).

  17. 17.

    Burke, M., Hsiang, S. & Miguel, E. Global non-linear effect of temperature on economic production. Nature 527, 235–239 (2015).

  18. 18.

    Pye, S., Li, F., Price, J. & Fais, B. Achieving net-zero emissions through the reframing of UK national targets in the post-Paris Agreement era. Nat. Energy 2, 17024 (2017).

  19. 19.

    Trenberth, K. E. et al. in Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis (eds Solomon, S. et al.) Ch. 3 (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2007).

  20. 20.

    Food Statistics Pocketbook (DEFRA, 2017); https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/food-statistics-pocketbook-2017

  21. 21.

    . UK Climate Change Risk Assessment 2017: Synthesis Report (Committee on Climate Change, 2017); https://www.theccc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/UK-CCRA-2017-Synthesis-Report-Committee-on-Climate-Change.pdf

  22. 22.

    Whitmarsh, L. What’s in a name? Commonalities and differences in public understanding of “climate change” and “global warming. Public Underst. Sci. 18, 401–420 (2009).

  23. 23.

    Partridge, T. et al. Seeing futures now: emergent US and UK views on shale development, climate change and energy systems. Glob. Environ. Change 42, 1–12 (2017).

  24. 24.

    Schiermeier, Q. Droughts, heatwaves and floods: how to tell when climate change is to blame. Nature 560, 20–22 (2018).

  25. 25.

    Ray, A., Hughes, L., Konisky, D. & Kaylor, C. Extreme weather exposure and support for climate change adaptation. Glob. Environ. Change 46, 104–113 (2017).

  26. 26.

    France protests: will the environment be the true victim of the fuel-tax riots? BBC News http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-46439469 (2018).

  27. 27.

    Larcom, S., She, P.-W. & van Gevelt, T. Replication files for: the UK summer heatwave of 2018 and public concern over energy security. Figshare https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.7482614 (2019).

  28. 28.

    Cameron., A., Gelbach, J. & Miller, D. Bootstrap-based improvements for inference with clustered errors. Rev. Econ. Stat. 90, 414–427 (2008).

  29. 29.

    Salehyan, I. & Hendrix, C. S. Climate shocks and political violence. Glob. Environ. Change 28, 239–250 (2014).

  30. 30.

    Randell, H. & Gray, C. Climate variability and educational attainment: evidence from rural Ethiopia. Glob. Environ. Change 41, 111–123 (2016).

Download references

Acknowledgements

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.

Supplementary information

  1. Supplementary Information

    Supplementary Figures 1–12 and Supplementary Tables 1–22

  2. Reporting Summary

Rights and permissions

To obtain permission to re-use content from this article visit RightsLink.

About this article

Further reading

Fig. 1: Average maximum daily temperatures.