The effect of tropical cyclones on climate change engagement

Abstract

Personal experience can influence our attitudes and actions concerning climate change. This paper examines the experience-perception link in relation to tropical cyclones using a distinctly revealed preference approach, mitigating biases of prior research in this area. Specifically, we study how people alter their internet searches related to climate change in response to tropical cyclones. Using data for the United States 2006–2012, results suggest that searches related to climate change increase with a lag in the months following an event. This finding indicates that the people are connecting tropical cyclones to the broader narrative of climate change in the aftermath of an event and there may be a window of opportunity for building public support for policy action.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    We acknowledge the debate regarding projections for intensity and frequency of tropical cyclones due to climate change and refrain from taking a particular stance.

  2. 2.

    We encourage interested readers to visit Google Trends at www.google.com/trends to explore the data visualization platform.

  3. 3.

    While both query share and absolute search volume are meaningful, we would expect results to be similar for each given that absolute search volume increases over time. Unfortunately, absolute search volume is unavailable. Query share, however, provides additional benefits of controlling for relative importance and prioritization of searches for each geographic region.

  4. 4.

    “Tropical cyclone” does not register a non-zero GSI over our sample timespan when compared to “hurricane”.

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Acknowledgements

Carrie Gill is thanked for excellent research assistance. Laura Bakkensen and three anonymous referees are thanked for useful comments. This paper is a contribution of the Rhode Island Agricultural Experiment Station (#5431).

Author contributions

Lang conceived of the research. Ryder performed analyses. Lang and Ryder co-wrote paper.

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Correspondence to Corey Lang.

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Lang, C., Ryder, J.D. The effect of tropical cyclones on climate change engagement. Climatic Change 135, 625–638 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-015-1590-0

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Keywords

  • Tropical Cyclone
  • Tropical Storm
  • Search Volume
  • Attribute Substitution
  • Wind Radius