Rising Seas, Rising Concerns: How Climate Change Vulnerability Shapes Opinions Towards Policy

Andrew Reeves, Dino Christenson (both Political Science), 9/22

WashU Affiliated Authors: Andrew Reeves (Political Science), Dino Christenson (Political Science

Abstract: Public opinion towards human-induced climate change is polarized along partisan lines. Indeed, the preponderance of scholarly work suggests that not even direct
experiences with the consequences of climate change result in long-lasting effects on
opinions or behaviors. Our analysis of over 519,000 survey respondents and nearly
30,000 precinct-level voting returns challenges this emerging consensus for one kind of
climate change event: sea level rise. We find that persistent vulnerability to sea level
rise powerfully influences opinions and behaviors on global warming. Coastal residents
whose communities are affected by sea-level rise are more likely to believe in climate
change and be willing to act accordingly. This association is strongest among those
who are firmly attached to their communities, as opposed to those with the most to
lose financially. We speculate that sea-level rise is unique in that its effects are not
easily mitigated and that the ocean is an ever-present reminder of the inexorable toll
of climate change.

Citation/DOI: N/A