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Perceptions of seasonal weather are linked to beliefs about global climate change: evidence from Norway

Abstract

As climate change continues to alter local weather patterns, it is important to understand how people are experiencing such changes because personal experience may affect mitigation and adaptation policy preferences and behaviors. Local weather conditions are also an easily accessible source of information that, aggregated over time, may enable people to detect long-term climate trends and update their beliefs about global warming. However, motivated reasoning—the tendency to fit information to conclusions that correspond with a preexisting belief—may limit the accuracy of local weather perceptions. This paper focuses on perceptions of seasonal weather in Norway and examines evidence for motivated reasoning consistent with pre-existing beliefs about climate change, using a national panel survey combined with high-resolution seasonal climate observations. Respondents’ perceptions are sensitive to observed differences in both temperature and precipitation, but respondents are more likely to accurately perceive local precipitation than local temperature. Controlling for observed conditions, beliefs about global climate change had a large effect on perceptions of seasonal temperature, and smaller effects on perceptions of seasonal precipitation. These findings provide evidence that individual perceptions of seasonal weather are related to local conditions, but they are also likely to be motivated by beliefs about global climate change.

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Acknowledgements

Data collection was conducted by the Norwegian Citizen Panel, a collaboration of the University of Bergen and Uni Research Rokkan Centre. The author wishes to thank Matto Mildenberger, Endre Tvinnereim, and participants of the Norwegian Citizen Panel conference for comments on previous drafts.

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Correspondence to Peter D. Howe.

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Howe, P.D. Perceptions of seasonal weather are linked to beliefs about global climate change: evidence from Norway. Climatic Change 148, 467–480 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-018-2210-6

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-018-2210-6