Turning to God in Tough Times? Human Versus Material Losses from Climate Disasters in Canada

Abstract

Formal and informal insurance mechanisms help people recover from material losses associated with climate disasters. However, people may also find other ways to cope with human losses caused by disasters and research has suggested that religion may provide psychological relief to individuals experiencing adversity. Here, I test whether climate disasters have a causal effect on religious preferences and the intensity of these preferences across provinces in Canada. I look at the differentiated effect of material and human losses on religiosity. I create a dataset with socioeconomic and demographic information of individuals, including their religious preferences, and information on climate disasters at the provincial level in Canada for the period 1992–2012 and use an instrumental variable approach to deal with omitted variables. The novel finding of this paper is that the frequency of disasters and their impacts have different effects on religious preferences: 1) the number and the economic costs of disasters erode religion preferences, and 2) among religious individuals, human losses increase the intensity of their religious preferences. I also find that disasters at the country-wide level influence religious preferences at the local level.

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Fig. 1
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Notes

  1. 1.

    In Canada, the cases of the Calgary flood and Ontario floods in 2013 and 2014, and the case of wildfires in Fort McMurray. In the US, the cases of Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy in 2005, and 2012.

  2. 2.

    Both released in summer 2015.

  3. 3.

    The World Risk Index (www.irdrinternational.orf/2016/03/01/word-risk-index/) measures the vulnerability of society to natural disasters. The index defines 5 risk categories: very low (from a value of 0.08 to 3.46), low (from 3.47 to 5.46), middle (from 5.47 to 7.30), high (from 7.31 to 10.39), and very high (from 10.40 to 36.72). The value of the Index for Canada is 3.01% (very low risk). According to this Index, the safest country is Qatar with a value 0.08%, while the riskiest is Vanuatu with a value of 36.72% (very high risk). For comparison purposes, the US has a value in the ranking of 3,76% (low risk), Great Britain a value of 3.54% (low risk), and Australia a value of 4.22% (low risk). The riskiest areas of the world include Southeast Asia, Central America and the Southern Sahel.

  4. 4.

    With the exception of four years (2002, 2007, 2008 and 2009) when Canada was not part of the survey.

  5. 5.

    The results from Ordered Probit and Interval Regressions produce similar results.

  6. 6.

    The results from the estimation models that disregard the problem of endogeneity are presented in Appendix Tables 7 and 8. Significant and stronger effects are found when endogeneity is considered.

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Correspondence to Oscar Zapata.

Appendices

Appendix 1

Table 7 Probit regression with believing in God as the dependent variable
Table 8 OLS regression with frequency of attendance as the dependent variable

Appendix 2

Table 9 First-stage regression results with believing in God as the dependent variable
Table 10 First-stage regression results with frequency of attendance as the dependent variable

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Zapata, O. Turning to God in Tough Times? Human Versus Material Losses from Climate Disasters in Canada. EconDisCliCha 2, 259–281 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s41885-018-0029-2

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Keywords

  • Climate disasters
  • Religious preferences
  • Material and human losses
  • IV estimation
  • Canada

JEL Classification

  • Q54
  • Z12
  • D12