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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. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Suggested Citation

  • Tatyana Deryugina, 2013. "How do people update? The effects of local weather fluctuations on beliefs about global warming," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 118(2), pages 397-416, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:climat:v:118:y:2013:i:2:p:397-416
    DOI: 10.1007/s10584-012-0615-1

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Trudy Cameron, 2005. "Updating Subjective Risks in the Presence of Conflicting Information: An Application to Climate Change," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 30(1), pages 63-97, January.
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    7. Gary Charness & Edi Karni & Dan Levin, 2007. "Individual and group decision making under risk: An experimental study of Bayesian updating and violations of first-order stochastic dominance," Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, Springer, vol. 35(2), pages 129-148, October.
    8. John A. List, 2003. "Does Market Experience Eliminate Market Anomalies?," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 118(1), pages 41-71.
    9. Jonathan E. Alevy & Michael S. Haigh & John A. List, 2007. "Information Cascades: Evidence from a Field Experiment with Financial Market Professionals," Journal of Finance, American Finance Association, vol. 62(1), pages 151-180, February.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:spr:endesu:v:19:y:2017:i:4:d:10.1007_s10668-016-9816-5 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. David M. Konisky & Llewelyn Hughes & Charles H. Kaylor, 2016. "Extreme weather events and climate change concern," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 134(4), pages 533-547, February.
    3. Herrnstadt, Evan & Muehlegger, Erich, 2014. "Weather, salience of climate change and congressional voting," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 68(3), pages 435-448.
    4. Mehmet Kutluay & Roy Brouwer & Richard S. J. Tol, 2017. "Preference updating in public health risk valuation," Working Paper Series 1517, Department of Economics, University of Sussex.
    5. Said, Farah & Afzal, Uzma & Turner, Ginger, 2015. "Risk taking and risk learning after a rare event: Evidence from a field experiment in Pakistan," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 118(C), pages 167-183.
    6. Christopher Severen & Christopher Costello & Olivier Deschenes, 2016. "A Forward Looking Ricardian Approach: Do Land Markets Capitalize Climate Change Forecasts?," NBER Working Papers 22413, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Derek Lemoine, 2017. "Expect Above Average Temperatures: Identifying the Economic Impacts of Climate Change," NBER Working Papers 23549, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    8. McFadden, Brandon R. & Lusk, Jayson L., 2015. "Cognitive biases in the assimilation of scientific information on global warming and genetically modified food," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 54(C), pages 35-43.
    9. repec:spr:climat:v:142:y:2017:i:1:d:10.1007_s10584-017-1934-z is not listed on IDEAS
    10. Ginger Turner & Farah Said & Uzma Afzal, 2014. "Microinsurance Demand After a Rare Flood Event: Evidence From a Field Experiment in Pakistan," The Geneva Papers on Risk and Insurance - Issues and Practice, Palgrave Macmillan;The Geneva Association, vol. 39(2), pages 201-223, April.

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