Attribution matters: revisiting the link between extreme weather experience and climate change mitigation responses
The literature suggests that extreme weather experiences have potential to increase climate change engagement by influencing the way people perceive the proximity and implications of climate change. Yet, limited attention has been directed at investigating how individual differences in the subjective interpretation of extreme weather events as indications of climate change modulate the link between extreme weather experiences and climate change attitudes. This article contends that subjective attribution of extreme weather events to climate change is a necessary condition for extreme weather experiences to be translated into climate change mitigation responses, and that subjective attribution of extreme weather to climate change is influenced by the psychological and social contexts in which individuals appraise their experiences with extreme weather. Using survey data gathered in the aftermath of severe flooding across the UK in winter 2013/2014, personal experience of this flooding event is shown to only directly predict perceived threat from climate change, and indirectly predict climate change mitigation responses, among individuals who subjectively attributed the floods to climate change.Additionally, subjective attribution of the floods to climate change is significantly predicted by pre-existing climate change belief, political affiliation and perceived normative cues. Attempts to harness extreme weather experiences as a route to engaging the public must be attentive to the heterogeneity of opinion on the attributability of extreme weather events to climate change.
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