Climatic Change

, Volume 118, Issue 2, pp 397–416 | Cite as

How do people update? The effects of local weather fluctuations on beliefs about global warming

  • Tatyana Deryugina


Global warming has become a controversial public policy issue in spite of broad scientific consensus that it is real and that human activity is a contributing factor. It is likely that public consensus is also needed to support policies that might counteract it. It is therefore important to understand how people form and update their beliefs about climate change. Using unique survey data on beliefs about the occurrence of the effects of global warming, I estimate how local temperature fluctuations influence what individuals believe about these effects. I find that some features of the updating process are consistent with rational updating. I also test explicitly for the presence of several heuristics known to affect belief formation and find strong evidence for representativeness, some evidence for availability, and no evidence for spreading activation. I find that very short-run temperature fluctuations (1 day–2 weeks) have no effect on beliefs about the occurrence of global warming, but that longer-run fluctuations (1 month–1 year) are significant predictors of beliefs. Only respondents with a conservative political ideology are affected by temperature abnormalities.


Global Warming Political Ideology Spreading Activation Local Weather Answer Category 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



I am very grateful to Amy Finkelstein and Michael Greenstone for invaluable discussions and extensive feedback. I thank Stefano DellaVigna for insightful suggestions, and Jason Abaluck, Jerry Hausman, Dan Keniston, Randall Lewis, Anna Mikusheva, Mar Reguant-Rido, Joseph Shapiro, and three anonymous referees for helpful comments. I acknowledge the financial support of the MIT Energy Initiative, the MIT Shultz Fund, and the National Science Foundation.

Supplementary material

10584_2012_615_MOESM1_ESM.docx (76 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 76 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignChampaignUSA

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