As climate change accelerates, governments will be forced to adapt to its impacts. The public could respond by increasing mitigation behaviours and support for decarbonization, creating a virtuous cycle between adaptation and mitigation. Alternatively, adaptation could generate backlash, undermining mitigation behaviours. Here we examine the relationship between adaptation and mitigation in the power sector, using the case of California’s public safety power shut-offs in 2019. We use a geographically targeted survey to compare residents living within power outage zones to matched residents in similar neighbourhoods who retained their electricity. Outage exposure increased respondent intentions to purchase fossil fuel generators while it may have reduced intentions to purchase electric vehicles. However, exposure did not change climate policy preferences, including willingness to pay for either wildfire or climate-mitigating reforms. Respondents blamed outages on their utility, not local, state or federal governments. Our findings demonstrate that energy infrastructure disruptions, even when not understood as climate adaptations, can still be consequential for decarbonization trajectories.
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The underlying data used in this article has been deposited in a Harvard Dataverse repository to accompany publication of this article, available at https://doi.org/10.7910/DVN/UUYMNG.
The code and replication scripts necessary to generate the figures, tables and analysis reported here have also been been deposited in the Harvard Dataverse repository at https://doi.org/10.7910/DVN/UUYMNG.
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This research was supported in part by funding from the Research Council of Norway as part of DEMOS grant 302869 (L.C.S.), the Swedish Formas Research Council grant 2019-01962 (L.C.S.), and the US National Science Foundation as part of both grant BCS-1753082 (P.D.H.) and grant CRISP-1541056 (M.L.). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish or preparation of the manuscript. We also thank J. Marlon, P. Bergquist, A. Cooperman, S. Constantino and O.M. Lægreid for comments on earlier drafts of this manuscript.
The authors declare no competing interests.
This study was reviewed and approved by the University of California Office of Research as Protocol 22-19-0808. Respondent participation in our survey was voluntary, and respondents provided informed consent before taking the survey.
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Mildenberger, M., Howe, P.D., Trachtman, S. et al. The effect of public safety power shut-offs on climate change attitudes and behavioural intentions. Nat Energy 7, 736–743 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41560-022-01071-0