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In 2017, the United States experienced a series of natural hazards (hurricanes, wildfires, and blizzards) that resulted in significant loss of life and property. Emphasizing the role of climate change in these events might offer an important tool for engagement, particularly with skeptical audiences. However, in a survey experiment (N = 1504) involving three different natural hazards – hurricanes, wildfires, and blizzards – we find that emphasizing the role of climate change in these hazards produced unintended effects for climate change skeptics. In particular, skeptics experienced resistance to the news article, which associated with reduced perceived hazard severity. These backfiring effects likely serve as a defensive mechanism used by skeptics to maintain their prior views of climate change, illustrating the challenges faced in communicating climate change to skeptical audiences. These findings offer additional insight for those attempting to communicate climate-related risk information to skeptical audiences.
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Environmental Communication
ISSN: 1752-4032 (Print) 1752-4040 (Online) Journal homepage:
Unintended Effects of Emphasizing the Role of
Climate Change in Recent Natural Disasters
Graham Dixon, Olivia Bullock & Dinah Adams
To cite this article: Graham Dixon, Olivia Bullock & Dinah Adams (2018): Unintended Effects
of Emphasizing the Role of Climate Change in Recent Natural Disasters, Environmental
Communication, DOI: 10.1080/17524032.2018.1546202
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Published online: 13 Dec 2018.
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Unintended Eects of Emphasizing the Role of Climate Change in
Recent Natural Disasters
Graham Dixon, Olivia Bullock and Dinah Adams
School of Communication, The Ohio State University, Columbus, USA
In 2017, the United States experienced a series of natural hazards
(hurricanes, wildres, and blizzards) that resulted in signicant loss of life
and property. Emphasizing the role of climate change in these events
might oer an important tool for engagement, particularly with skeptical
audiences. However, in a survey experiment (N= 1504) involving three
dierent natural hazards hurricanes, wildres, and blizzards we nd
that emphasizing the role of climate change in these hazards produced
unintended eects for climate change skeptics. In particular, skeptics
experienced resistance to the news article, which associated with
reduced perceived hazard severity. These backring eects likely serve
as a defensive mechanism used by skeptics to maintain their prior views
of climate change, illustrating the challenges faced in communicating
climate change to skeptical audiences. These ndings oer additional
insight for those attempting to communicate climate-related risk
information to skeptical audiences.
Received 12 February 2018
Accepted 4 November 2018
Motivated reasoning; climate
change; natural disasters; risk
Extreme weather events aected nearly every region of the United States in 2017, leaving record-set-
ting weather conditions, evacuations, and damage in their wake. In March, Winter Storm Stella, a
Category 3 blizzard, slammed the Northeast and Midwest, dumping more than ve feet of snow
in certain areas (Wright & Carr, 2017). Later, Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria made headlines
for their intensity and devastation, causing unprecedented ooding and power outages along the
Gulf Coast and Puerto Rico (Fritz, 2017). Further still, rapidly spreading wildres destroyed thou-
sands of homes and killed dozens in California, making 2017 the most destructive year of wildres
in state history (Watkins et al., 2017).
Taken together, the ongoing string of escalating natural hazards has led many to consider the role
of climate change in generating and exacerbating the severity of these threats. Climate scientists have
suggested that warming temperatures, caused by the increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere,
may be enabling longer and more intense cycles of droughts, oods, and storms, the likes of which
fueled each of the disasters that aected the U.S. in 2017 (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change, 2014). As a result, many believe that it is increasingly important for public consensus to
coalesce around the existence and inuence of anthropogenic climate change, and have proposed
using the prevalence of extreme weather events as the framework of a persuasive strategy to do so
(Cody, Stephens, Bagrow, Sheridan Dodds, & Danforth, 2017; Rudman, McLean, & Bunzl, 2013).
Although extreme natural disasters seem to be an opportunity to discuss the eects of climate
change, a growing body of research suggests that doing so may have unintended consequences.
© 2018 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
CONTACT Graham Dixon School of Communication, The Ohio State University, Derby Hall 3015a,
Columbus, OH 43016, USA
Often, when individuals are met with information contradicting a strongly held belief, they engage in
motivated reasoning strategies via processes such as selective exposure, psychological reactance, and
counter-arguing (Kunda, 1990; Lodge & Taber, 2000; Nisbet, Cooper, & Garrett, 2015). This process
of motivated reasoning, however, can occur with prominent climate change messaging strategies,
such as framing or consensus messaging, resulting in climate skeptics increasing their skepticism,
reducing their support for climate mitigation policies, and exacerbating distrust in scientic insti-
tutions (Cook & Lewandowsky, 2016; Hart & Nisbet, 2011; Nisbet et al., 2015; Zhou, 2016). Empha-
sizing the role of climate change in natural hazards could produce similar results. Indeed, recent
research has found that framing a natural disaster as the product of climate change results in climate
skeptics forming greater justications for not helping the victims of the natural disaster (Chapman &
Lickel, 2016). But in addition to impacting climate change beliefs, policy support, and victim assist-
ance, how might motivated reasoning impact perceptions about the natural hazard itself? In turn,
might those perceptions inuence risk preparedness behaviors?
These questions have become more salient as leading partisan media gures have argued that
natural disasters are exaggerated by journalists as a means to convince the public of climate change
(Nazarvan, 2017; Palmer, 2018). These pronouncements could shed light on how climate skeptics
respond when climate changes role in recent natural disasters is emphasized. When climate change
is highlighted as an important factor in the cause and severity of natural hazards, skeptical audiences
could engage in motivated reasoning, and as a defensive mechanism, downplay the risks posed by the
hazard. With more than half of the American public holding skeptical views of climate change (i.e.
not believing that climate change is occurring, or not believing human factors play a role), such an
eect could pose further challenges in encouraging preparedness for severe natural hazards (Funk &
Kennedy, 2016). Therefore, our study explores how emphasizing the role of climate change not only
results in motivated reasoning, but also might attenuate perceived hazard severity for natural
Materials and methods
Study design
Participants (N= 1504; Age: M= 45.98, SD = 24.81, Female = 53.1%, White = 78.9%) were randomly
assigned to read a news article on a recent natural hazard that either emphasized the role of climate
change or did not. Our study ran from October 26 to November 3, 2017, coinciding with the 2017
hurricane and wildre seasons. In order to increase generalizability of our ndings, we ran three
separate identical surveys that included a news article discussing either hurricanes, wildres, or
blizzards. Our articles, while edited in places for length, were closely adapted from recently published
news articles in mainstream newspaper outlets. Article length varied from 254 to 279 words. Our
manipulations were also taken from existing news articles that included various scientic sources
explaining the role of climate change for the respective natural hazard. Our manipulated content
varied from 162 to 267 words (See Supplemental Information for access to stimuli).
Participant sample
Participants were recruited from Qualtricsgeneral population panel that involved obtaining partici-
pants residing in states where their assigned hazard is common. For example, those in the hurricane
survey resided in one of ten states that experience the most hurricane damage (Matthews, 2015).
Those in the wildre survey resided in one of the ten most wildre prone states (Insurance Infor-
mation Institute, 2017). Finally, those in the blizzard survey resided in states in the Midwest and
Northeast, described by the National Weather Service as the most common places for blizzards to
occur (Lebernger, 2015).
Pre-test measures
Before condition exposure, prior climate change beliefs were measured with a six-item composite
scale used in previous research (Cook & Lewandowsky, 2016; Dixon, Hmielowski, & Ma, 2017).
Using Likert agreement (1 = strongly disagree to 6 = strongly agree) items, we measured the extent
to which people believe climate change is occurring and whether human activity plays a role,
M= 4.36, SD = .97, Cronbachs alpha = .82 (See Supplemental Information for survey items).
Political ideology was measured with a seven-point scale (1 = very conservative to 7 = very liberal),
M= 3.88, SD = 1.61. We also asked participants whether or not they had experienced their assigned
hazard close to their home. We included this item as a control variable in all of our statistical models.
While assessing climate change beliefs and political ideology prior to stimulus exposure may induce
the potential for participants to be primed by the introduction of these topics, the measures were
taken in this order to establish them as moderating variables in subsequent analyses (Frazier, Tix,
& Barron, 2004). We also placed demographic measures and an attention check after exposure to
the moderating variables on separate survey pages and just prior to condition exposure. The atten-
tion check requested respondents to match a number and those who failed the check did not proceed
with the study and were not included as completes. We believe this reduced the potential for priming
eects caused by our political ideology and climate change beliefs measures.
Post-test measures
After reading their article, participants answered an eleven-item composite scale measuring message
resistance, M= 2.84, SD = .95, Cronbachs alpha = .92. Developed by Nisbet et al. (2015) this compo-
site scale included items assessing counter-arguing, psychological reactance, and message credibility
(See SI). Perceived hazard severity was measured with three items developed by Kahan et al. (2012),
asking participants their perception of their hazards severity to human health, safety, and prosperity,
M= 4.61, SD = 1.05, Cronbachs alpha = .88.
We rst examined the eect of condition (1 = emphasizing climate changes role versus 0 = not
emphasizing climate changes role) on message resistance.
We found signicant main eects of con-
dition, indicating that articles emphasizing climate changes role in the hazard resulted in signi-
cantly higher message resistance scores, b= .26, SE = .04, p< .001 (see Table 1, Model 1).
However, we found that the eect of condition on message resistance was moderated by ones
prior belief in climate change, b=.2, SE = .06, p< .001 (see Table 1, Model 2). R-square change
due to this interaction was signicant, albeit small, R-square change = .008, F(1, 1485) = 11.75, p
Table 1. OLS equation predicting message resistance.
Model 1 Model 2
Variable b (SE) b (SE)
Constant 4.85(.17)*** 4.47(.2)***
Ideology (liberal coded high) .06(.02)*** .07(.02)**
Prior belief in climate change .43(.03)*** .34(.04)***
Condition .26(.04)*** 1.03(.22)***
Condition x ideology .02(.03)
Condition x prior belief .2(.06)***
F test F(9,1487) = 57.42*** F(11,1485) = 52.18***
% variance explained (Total R
).29 .3
NOTE: Unstandardized coecients and heteroscedasticity consistent standard error reported (HC3). Results are controlling for age,
sex, race, previous experience with assigned hazard, and dummy codes for hazard type (blizzard and wildre with hurricane as
reference category).
*p< .05, **p< .01, ***p< .001
= .001. Probing this interaction revealed that exposure to the articles emphasizing climate change
elicited message resistance, but only for those with skeptical views of climate change (see Figures
1and 2). Furthermore, political ideology did not signicantly interact with condition in its eect
on message resistance, b=.02, SE = .03, p= .43.
We next turn to perceived hazard severity. The main eect of condition on perceived hazard
severity was not signicant, b= .04, SE = .05, p= .38 (see Table 2, Model 1). However, we report a
signicant interaction eect between condition and prior climate change beliefs, b= .16, SE = .07,
p=.041 (see Table 2, Model 2). R-square change due to this interaction was very small, yet signicant,
R-square change = .004, F(1, 1486) = 6.04, p= .014. Probing this interaction revealed that exposure to
the articles emphasizing climate change elicited greater perceived hazard severity, but only for those
who already believed in climate change, suggesting the possibility that this intervention could polar-
ize perceived hazard severity among climate change believers and skeptics. Political ideology did not
signicantly interact with condition in its eect on perceived hazard severity, b=.08, SE = .04, p
= .05 (see Figure 3).
Finally, we explored the indirect eect of condition on perceived hazard severity via message resist-
ance, and whether the indirect eect is moderated by political ideology and/or prior belief in climate
change. Specically, we considered how emphasizing climate changes role in natural hazards induces
message resistance, which in turn associates with lower perceived hazard severity. Using PROCESS
macro model 10 (Hayes, 2013;Hayes,2018), we found that message resistance mediated the eect
of condition on perceived hazard severity (see Table 2, Model 3). However, prior climate change belief,
but not political ideology, moderated this indirect eect. In particular, the index of partial moderated
mediation for political ideology was non-signicant, b=.005, 95% CI [.02, .01]. Independent of any
Figure 1. Johnson Neyman graph of the conditional eect of exposure to the climate change messages on message resistance by
prior belief in climate change. The Y axis represents eect of condition (1 = emphasizing climate changes role; 0 = not emphasizing
climate changes role) on message resistance. The X axis represents prior climate change belief scores (believers coded high). Those
with skeptical beliefs experienced strong message resistance, whereas those with favorable beliefs experienced no message resist-
ance. Probed from Table 1, Model 2 using PROCESS macro.
moderation of the indirect eect of condition by prior climate change belief, the evidence does not sup-
port a claim that the indirect eect diers by values of political ideology. On the other hand, the index
of partial moderated mediation for prior climate change beliefs indicated moderated mediation, b=.04,
95% CI [.02, .07]. Independent of any moderation of the indirect eect of condition by political ideol-
ogy, prior climate change belief moderated this indirect eect. Probing this nding further, we found
signicant negative indirect eects for climate change skeptics (1SD from prior climate change belief
mean) regardless of their political ideology (see Table 3). No signicant indirect eects were observed
for those already believing in climate change (+1SD from prior climate change belief mean). Based on
these ndings, emphasizing climate changes role in recent natural hazards elicits message resistance
from climate skeptics, which is associated with attenuated perceived risk severity. Although these
Table 2. OLS equation predicting perceived hazard severity.
Model 1 Model 2 Model 3
Variable b (SE) b (SE) b (SE)
Constant 3.08(.15)*** 3.28(.2)*** 4.22(.24)***
Ideology (liberal coded high) .01(.02) .03(.03) .01(.03)
Prior belief in climate change .36(.03)*** .28(.05)*** .21(.05)***
Condition .04(.05) .37(.26) .15(.26)
Condition x ideology .08(.04) .07(.04)
Condition x prior belief .16(.07)* .12(.07)
Message resistance ––.21(.03)***
F Test F(9, 1488) = 35.5*** F(11, 1486) = 30.48*** F(12, 1484) = 32.19***
% variance explained (Total R
).18 .18 .21
NOTE: Unstandardized coecients and heteroscedasticity consistent standard error reported (HC3). Results are controlling for age,
sex, race, previous experience with assigned hazard, and dummy codes for hazard type (blizzard and wildre with hurricane as
reference category).
*p< .05, **p< .01, ***p< .001.
Figure 2. Graph of the estimated means of message resistance scores by condition (1 = emphasizing climate changes role; 0 = not
emphasizing climate changes role) and prior belief in climate change (believers coded high). Probed from Table 1, Model 2 using
PROCESS macro.
indirect eects do not represent causal eects, these results shed further light on how climate skeptics
react when natural hazards are connected to climate change.
Overall, our ndings document unintended eects from emphasizing the role of climate change in
recent natural hazards. Although highlighting climate change as an important factor in the cause and
severity of natural hazards might seem compelling for skeptical audiences, our results correspond
with previous ndings that persuasive climate change messaging often backres for skeptical audi-
ences (Chapman & Lickel, 2016; Cook & Lewandowsky, 2016; Hart & Nisbet, 2011; Nisbet et al.,
Figure 3. Johnson Neyman graph of the conditional eect of exposure to the climate change messages on perceived hazard sever-
ity by prior belief in climate change. The Y axis represents the eect of condition (1 = emphasizing climate changes role; 0 = not
emphasizing climate changes role) on perceived hazard severity. The X axis represents prior climate change belief scores (believers
coded high). Probed from Table 2, Model 2 using PROCESS macro.
Table 3. Conditional indirect eects on perceived hazard severity via message resistance.
Ideology Prior Belief in Climate Change Indirect Eect 95% CI
Liberals Non believers .1 .17, .06
Believers .02 .05, .002
Moderates Non Believers .1 .14, .06
Believers .01 .04, .01
Conservatives Non Believers .09 .13, .05
Believers .006 .05, .04
NOTE: Unstandardized coecients reported. 95% bootstrapped condence intervals employed 5000 samples. Partial index of mod-
erated-mediation for prior belief in climate change, b= .04, 95% CI [.02, .07]. Partial index of moderated-mediation for political
ideology, b=.005, 95% CI [.02, .01]. Liberals represent those 1SD above the ideology mean; moderates represent those at the
ideology mean; conservatives represent those 1SD below the ideology mean. Non-believers represent those 1SD below prior
belief mean; believers represent those 1SD above the prior belief mean.
2015; Zhou, 2016). Our work here extends these previous ndings to a new context, suggesting that
highlighting the role of climate change in natural hazards lead skeptical audiences to engage in
motivated reasoning, which then associates with downplaying the risks of a natural hazard. While
our conditional indirect eects cannot be determined as causal, we believe our ndings prompt
further insight into the unintended eects of climate change messaging. Future research involving
additional experimental manipulation could explore whether the conditional indirect eects
reported in our paper represent causal relationships.
Furthermore, our ndings suggest motivated reasoning occurs for skeptics across the political
spectrum. Although political conservativism has been more aligned with climate change skepticism,
recent polling data from Pew Research shows climate skepticism exists even among twenty-one per-
cent of American self-identied liberals (Funk & Rainie, 2015). Our ndings indicate that belief in
anthropogenic climate change, rather than political ideology, might be the most predictive variable
in documenting motivated reasoning toward climate change messaging.
Lastly, our results illustrate the challenges in communicating climate change to skeptical audi-
ences. Consistent with a growing body of research, we show that explicitly connecting climate change
to highly visible and destructive natural hazards triggers resistance among climate skeptics. These
ndings, in conjunction with prior research, suggest that highlighting severe outcomes of climate
change without explicitly emphasizing climate change might avoid triggering motivated reasoning
among resistant audiences. In turn, this could promote appropriate responses to natural hazards,
as well as greater pro-environmental attitudes and policy support (Prentice, 2017). For example,
New Jersey residents signicantly aected by Hurricane Sandy showed greater implicit support
for pro-environmental politicians, leading researchers to suggest that direct experience with extreme
weather could increase pro-environmentalism (Rudman et al., 2013). Another study showed that
temperature anomalies resulting in unseasonably warm weather increased belief of anthropogenic
climate change (Hamilton & Stampone, 2013). Together, these ndings suggest that journalists
and other risk communicators should be careful to avoid polarizing terminology in discussing natu-
ral hazards, which could trigger motivated reasoning and reduce perceived severity, and instead
highlight the eects of climate change that skeptics might experience in their daily lives.
This research also demonstrates a potentially signicant connection between climate change
skepticism and risk communication. News coverage of natural disasters has been shown to connect
dangerous weather events to climate change phenomena (Feldman, Hart, & Milosevic, 2015), and
often provides recommendations to the safety of those aected by the weather event. This study
demonstrates that emphasizing climate changes role in natural hazards induces message resistance
(particularly among climate change skeptics), which in turn associates with reduced perceived
hazard severity. Ultimately, climate change skeptics may be less inclined to heed warnings about
the severity of natural disasters when those warnings include counter-attitudinal information
about climate change. On the other hand, our ndings also suggest that including climate change
in discussions of natural hazards can be an eective strategy for communicating with climate believ-
ers, and could even mobilize them to take further action. The dynamics of this relationship warrant
additional examination, and may have signicant implications for those communicating about natu-
ral disasters. With this in mind, journalists and practitioners should carefully consider their audience
and intentions before deciding whether to include climate frames in natural hazard communications.
Other research has explored the eectiveness of shaping climate change outreach and engagement
to t within the values of a target audience (Campbell & Kay, 2014; Dixon et al., 2017; Feinberg &
Willer, 2013; Nisbet, 2009). Scholars have shown that climate change messages which include free-
market solutions to climate change, or which include the morals of purity and sanctity, may more
eectively persuade climate change skeptics (Campbell & Kay, 2014; Dixon et al., 2017; Feinberg
& Willer, 2013). This research emphasizes the necessity of creating targeted messages that reect
the values and ideologies that underlie audiencesskeptical views. Doing so goes beyond simply edu-
cating the public on basic facts of climate change, but rather targets the factors behind climate change
skepticism, such as perceived threats to free market capitalism.
Finally, we recognize several limitations of our study that should be addressed in future research.
First, our stimuli articles were adapted from real-world news stories that used climate change to con-
vey threats related to natural disasters. While this approach enhanced external validity by mirroring
what people often encounter in their daily media consumption, it reduces our ability to concretely
determine what elements of the articles including climate change frames, tonality, or additional
scientic information produced our motivated reasoning eects. Our multi-message design, how-
ever, does lend additional support that our manipulation across dierent message types emphasis
of climate changes role in natural hazards was the causal factor in our experimental eects.
Further, our reliance on a cross-sectional study design enabled us to capture these results among
a heterogeneous sample, but without longitudinal measures, it is unclear how lasting the eects
that we found might be. Monitoring these eects over time would provide an interesting direction
for future research. Additional concerns could be made with our decision to measure our moderating
variables (i.e. climate change beliefs; political ideology) pre-test, which could have primed individ-
uals to engage more strongly in motivated reasoning. However, measuring moderators particularly,
ones prior belief in climate change post message exposure could introduce additional bias.
Measuring these variables pretest provides an important baseline measure used for examining con-
ditional eects. Furthermore, participants were exposed to demographic measures and an attention
check after exposure to the moderating variables on separate survey pages and just prior to condition
exposure. We believe this reduced the likelihood of priming eects.
While solving the challenges of climate change communication appear dicult, if not impossible, we
believe our study provides further insight into the unintended eects of climate change communi-
cation and points to more eective practices in reaching skeptical audiences. Using extreme out-
comes of climate change, such as salient natural disasters, might serve as important tools for
engaging with skeptical audiences. However, care should be taken in avoiding polarizing terminology
that triggers motivated reasoning and might ultimately attenuate the perceived severity of the risk at
1. We collapsed our hazard types together and examined condition (emphasizing the role of climate change versus
not emphasizing the role of climate change) as our independent variable. In all analyses, we controlled for
hazard type along with age, sex, race, and previous experience with assigned hazard. Additionally, we found
that hazard type did not signicantly interact with any of our ndings, justifying collapsing them together
and focusing on our main variable of interest: emphasizing the role of climate change.
Disclosure statement
No potential conict of interest was reported by the authors.
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... The apparent effects of motivation to maintain one's beliefs are pervasive (e.g., Klaczynski, 2000;Kunda, 1990;Lord, Ross, & Lepper, 1979;West & Kenny, 2011). Researchers have observed motivated reasoning in political psychology (e.g., Kahan, 2013;Kunda, 1990;Taber, Cann, & Kucsova, 2009;Taber & Lodge, 2006), in attitudes about climate change (e.g., Dixon, Bullock, & Adams, 2019;Hart & Nisbet, 2012), and in science literacy (e.g., Druckman, 2015;Drummond & Fischhoff, 2017;Pasek, 2018). Even practicing scientists who are aware of the effects of motivation on cognition are not immune to their influence (e.g., Simmons, Nelson, & Simonsohn, 2011;E. ...
... There are now well-established alternative hypotheses of effects which were previously presumed to be evidence of motivated reasoning (e.g. Jern et al., 2014;Kahan, 2013), but in much of the research on attitude and belief change, the conceptualization of motivated reasoning-like effects as evidence of a cognitive defect persists (e.g., Dixon et al., 2019;. ...
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Psychological, political, cultural, and sociological factors shape how people form and revise their beliefs. An established finding across these fields is that people are motivated to hold onto their beliefs even in the face of evidence by ignoring or reinterpreting information in a way that supports what they think. Although these and similar findings are compelling, the predominantly qualitative theories which guide research in this domain, and the often implicit definitions of motivation that accompany these theories, come at the cost of obscuring the cognitive mechanisms that produce motivated reasoning. Here, we introduce a new Bayesian decision-theoretic framework which describes three key factors necessary for distinguishing between cases of practically rational behavior and motivated reasoning. We demonstrate how the framework works in a series of simulations and argue that it provides guidance about what psychologists need to measure to determine where the errors in people's reasoning are occurring when they fail to revise their beliefs in light of new evidence. We then propose that this framework provides guidance for thinking about the development of interventions aimed at correcting misconceptions.
... There is strong evidence of 'backfire' or 'boomerang' effects, whereby climate communication aimed at increasing support for mitigation policies instead leads to greater opposition from those who identify with parties opposing strong mitigation (Zhou, 2016;Hart and Nisbet, 2012). These effects manifest in a wide range of behavioural and attitudinal outcomes, including general support for environmentalprotection spending (Johnson and Schwadel, 2019), risk perceptions toward climate change and natural disasters (Dixon et al., 2019;Linde, 2020), and individual consumption such as energy use reduction (Ogunbode et al., 2017) and environment-friendly purchases (Gromet et al., 2013). ...
... In the context of climate politics, this constrains climate communication and generally exacerbates partisan sources of opposition to climate mitigation (Zhou, 2016). These patterns are well established, with numerous empirical studies showing that current levels of alignment between partisanship and climate politics already manifests in 'backfire' or 'boomerang' effects across a wide range of behavioural and attitudinal outcomes, including support for climate mitigation policies (Hart and Nisbet, 2012;Johnson and Schwadel, 2019), climate risk perceptions (Dixon et al., 2019;Linde, 2020), and individual consumption (Gromet et al., 2013;Ogunbode et al., 2017). ...
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Prior research shows that public opinion on climate politics sorts along partisan lines. However, they leave open the question of whether climate politics and other politically salient issues exhibit tendencies for issue alignment, which the political polarization literature identifies as among the most deleterious aspects of polarization. Using a network approach and social media data from the Twitter platform, we study polarization of public opinion toward climate politics and ten other politically salient topics during the 2019 Finnish elections as the emergence of opposing groups in a public forum. We find that while climate politics is not particularly polarized compared to the other topics, it is subject to partisan sorting and issue alignment within the universalist-communitarian dimension of European politics that arose following the growth of right-wing populism. Notably, climate politics is consistently aligned with the immigration issue, and temporal trends indicate that this phenomenon will likely persist.
... Additionally, focusing events are typically geographically bound and support for climate policy can be shaped by personal experience with extreme weather events, so it's important to consider the effect of regional media coverage (Borick & Rabe, 2017). Lastly, increased citizen engagement on climate change issues is also correlated with a rise in media coverage that makes connection between climate and natural disasters (Dixon et al., 2019). Thus, future research could explore local and regional media coverage of natural disasters in tandem with state or city level policy responses to illuminate how focusing events prompt policy windows on localized contexts. ...
The increasing intensity of wildfires and hurricanes signal the reality of climate change, drawing media coverage that could capture the attention of policymakers. In a computational content analysis of 8906 news articles from four national newspapers, we compare coverage of wildfires and hurricanes in the U.S. from 2016 to 2021 examining volume and references to climate change, policy, and politicization. Our findings show patterns that provide new insight into how media may impact policymaking addressing climate change challenges. We find greater mentions of climate change in wildfire news coverage, suggesting that journalists more often associate wildfires with climate change than hurricanes. Volumetric data suggest a potential normalization effect implying decreased media attention of these events could reduce support for subsequent policy action. Overall, however, we do not see evidence that wildfires and hurricanes are focusing events for climate policy. We further discuss the implications of our findings, raising several questions and suggestions for future research. • KEY POLICY HIGHLIGHTS • Climate change is more often mentioned in mainstream national U.S. news media connected to wildfires, while economic factors are more associated with hurricanes. Related policy may be more accepted when framed accordingly. • Because less media attention may be paid to hurricanes and wildfires over time, as the novelty and dramatization factors diminish, the likelihood of their presence on policy agendas may be reduced. • Recurring extreme wildfires and hurricanes may become expected by the public, policymakers, and news media. Normalization would mean extreme hurricanes and wildfires won’t fit the definition of focusing events, suggesting that these events would not affect the policy agenda.
... In these and other cases, media sensationalism distorts climate change research into scientific certainty by presenting a hypothesis as fact (Weingart et al., 2000). Dixon et al. (2019) even found that emphasizing the role of climate change in particular hazards caused skeptics to resist the news article and in turn perceived the hazard as less risky. Despite this, popular news sources continue to connect climate change with natural disasters, as seen in 2021 media coverage of the Texas winter blackouts and the California wildfires. ...
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Climate change will have an increasing impact on agriculture through both on-farm weather impacts and the impact of related regulation. However, many farmers, while perceiving the climate as changing, do not believe in a fundamental component of climate change, its anthropogenic (i.e., human-caused) nature. This presents challenges as farmers need to bolster their operations against climate change and occupy a seat at the regulatory table to represent the diverse needs of agriculture. Because agricultural magazines have been established as a widely utilized source of information for farmers, this study investigated the nature of the coverage of climate change in 271 articles from three agricultural magazines from 2000-2020. Through a quantitative content analysis, we determined the articles frames, the sources, and the determined cause of climate change. This analysis revealed the dominant frame of scientific certainty, followed by political, conflict, and scientific uncertainty. The most frequently used sources were university scientists/Extension, followed by government officials and government research organizations. Articles were most likely to not mention the cause of climate change. This study contributes to the burgeoning research efforts to communicate this contentious topic and encourage adoption of climate smart agricultural practices.
... Additionally, connecting disasters stemming from weather hazards to larger-scale climate change may increase acceptance that climate change is occurring (Zanocco et al., 2018). Conversely, climate skeptics react to the link between disasters and climate change being made apparent with resistance, labeling hazards as less severe (which may exacerbate disaster risk) and becoming more skeptical of climate change (Dixon et al., 2019;Zanocco et al., 2018). ...
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People vary in climate change skepticism and in their views on disaster cause and prevention. For example, the United States boasts higher rates of climate skepticism than other countries, especially among Republicans. Research into the individual differences that shape variation in climate-related beliefs represents an important opportunity for those seeking ways to mitigate climate change and climate-related disasters (e.g., floods). In this registered report, we proposed a study examining how individual difference in physical formidability, worldview, and affect relate to attitudes about disaster and climate change. We predicted that highly formidable men would tend to endorse social inequality, hold status quo defensive worldviews, report lower levels of empathy, and report attitudes that promote disaster risk accumulation via lesser support for social intervention. The results of an online study (Study 1) support the notion that men’s self-perceived formidability is related to disaster and climate change beliefs in the predicted direction and that this relationship is mediated by hierarchical worldview and status quo defense but not empathy. An analysis of a preliminary sample for the in-lab study (Study 2) suggests that self-perceived formidability relates to disaster views, climate views, and status quo maintaining worldviews.
... Personal impact stories, in particular, have been shown to be effective in changing beliefs among the political Right , and they may even inspire compassion for climate change victims, which has been shown to strengthen pro-climate views (Lu & Schuldt 2016). On a cautionary note, however, messages that highlight the connection between environmental hazards and climate change have also been shown to backfire among skeptical audiences (Dixon et al. 2019). More research is needed on how to best communicate the link between environmental events and climate change to support public opinion change, especially among the political Right and audiences that are disengaged, doubtful, or dismissive regarding the issue. ...
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Americans increasingly accept that global warming is happening and a serious threat. Using secondary data from national probability surveys of the US adult population and preregistered hypotheses, we explore how and why Americans self-report changing their minds about global warming. Common reasons included learning more about the issue, hearing or seeing the effects of global warming, and personally experiencing its effects. We tested these reasons, as well as additional factors known to influence global warming opinion, including perceptions of social norms, media attention, and exposure to extreme weather, to assess their relative strength in predicting self-reported opinion change. As expected, perceived experience with global warming—particularly vicarious experience or seeing/hearing others experience its effects—emerged as a top correlate, even while statistically controlling for perceptions of social norms and attention to partisan-leaning media like Fox News. Perceived personal experience was a stronger correlate of self-reported opinion change among Republicans, whereas learning more about global warming was a stronger correlate among Democrats. Also as expected, perceiving social norms supportive of climate action was associated with positive self-reported opinion change, particularly among Republicans. Further, attention to the Fox News Channel was associated with negative self-reported opinion change but only among Republicans. Although this research is exploratory and uses self-reported data, it suggests that personalizing and localizing the threat of climate change, and enhancing the norm that most people support action, may be important factors to investigate in future longitudinal research on public opinion change and communication strategies.
... According to Dixon et al. (2018), during 2017, various natural disasters in the USA (hurricanes, wildfires, and blizzards) resulted in severe loss of life and property. Emphasising the role of CC in these events, particularly with sceptical audiences, might offer an effective tool for engagement. ...
Technical Report
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This report discusses practitioners’ perceptions of opportunities and challenges as coastal ecosystem-based management has developed and reviews the critical and emerging science needed to support regional ecosystem-based management in the US.
Climate change's impact on investor behavior is a scantly investigated area in finance. This paper examines the performance of socially responsible exchange trade funds (ETFs) concerning conventional ETFs, in response to climate change events. We proxy climate change signals with a list of natural disaster events that NASA scientists relate to climate change. We contribute to existing literature, by using a very extensive information set of ETF strategies, not influenced by rating agencies' subjective evaluation policies, and covering almost 90% of the universe of worldwide sustainability thematic‐oriented ETFs. This sample allows us to identify the socially responsible investment behavior in response to unpredictable climate change shocks. Our identification strategy accounts for endogeneity concerns and relies on two‐stage least square (2SLS) approach finding that responsible investors react to climate change events by purchasing socially responsible investments. The relationship between climate change signals and return of investment in themes linked to the development of sustainability is positive. Interestingly enough, the sign of this relationship is different, when we disentangle the empirical results according to the asset type, confirming that investors shift their investments from equity funds to bond funds when market sentiment worsens. Our results indicate that policymakers should increase the support of firms adopting environmentally conscious business practices, while managers should boost a sustainable business strategy.
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Natural hazard-related disasters are disruptive events with significant impact on people, communities, buildings, infrastructure, animals, agriculture, and environmental assets. The exponentially increasing anthropogenic activities on the planet have aggregated the climate change and consequently increased the frequency and severity of these natural hazard-related disasters, and consequential damages in cities. The digital technological advancements, such as monitoring systems based on fusion of sensors and machine learning, in early detection, warning and disaster response systems are being implemented as part of the disaster management practice in many countries and presented useful results. Along with these promising technologies, crowdsourced social media disaster big data analytics has also started to be utilized. This study aims to form an understanding of how social media analytics can be utilized to assist government authorities in estimating the damages linked to natural hazard-related disaster impacts on urban centers in the age of climate change. To this end, this study analyzes crowdsourced disaster big data from Twitter users in the testbed case study of Australian states and territories. The methodological approach of this study employs the social media analytics method and conducts sentiment and content analyses of location-based Twitter messages (n = 131,673) from Australia. The study informs authorities on an innovative way to analyze the geographic distribution, occurrence frequency of various disasters and their damages based on the geo-tweets analysis.
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Although prior research has identified communication strategies for reducing climate change skepticism, recent research suggests such approaches can backfire. To explore this issue, we report on a preliminary study investigating two prominent messaging styles: consensus and targeted messages. While consensus messaging did not produce significant effects, targeted messages emphasizing free market solutions to climate change were effective at improving conservatives’ climate change acceptance. Furthermore, the inclusion of consensus information did not improve or diminish the effects of the targeted messages. These findings underscore the utility of targeted messaging in improving climate change acceptance among political conservatives.
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Although climate change and energy are intricately linked, their explicit connection is not always prominent in public discourse and the media. Disruptive extreme weather events, including hurricanes, focus public attention in new and different ways, offering a unique window of opportunity to analyze how a focusing event influences public opinion. Simultaneously shaping and reflecting public discourse, media coverage of extreme weather events reflects public opinion of climate issues. Here we analyze climate and energy media coverage of Hurricanes Katrina (2005) and Sandy (2012) using topic models, mathematical techniques used to discover abstract topics within a set of documents. Our results demonstrate that post-Katrina media coverage does not contain a climate change topic, and the energy topic is limited to discussion of energy prices, markets, and the economy with almost no explicit linkages made between energy and climate change. In contrast, post-Sandy media coverage does contain a prominent climate change topic, a distinct energy topic, as well as integrated representation of climate change and energy.
Mediation of X’s effect on Y through a mediator M is moderated if the indirect effect of X depends on a fourth variable. Hayes [(2015). An index and test of linear moderated mediation. Multivariate Behavioral Research, 50, 1–22. doi:10.1080/00273171.2014.962683] introduced an approach to testing a moderated mediation hypothesis based on an index of moderated mediation. Here, I extend this approach to models with more than one moderator. I describe how to test if X’s indirect effect on Y is moderated by one variable when a second moderator is held constant (partial moderated mediation), conditioned on (conditional moderated mediation), or dependent on a second moderator (moderated moderated mediation). Examples are provided, as is a discussion of the visualization of indirect effects and an illustration of implementation in the PROCESS macro for SPSS and SAS.
Political communicators work under the assumption that information provision, such as framing, may influence audiences and elicit some desired attitudinal or behavioral shift. However, some political issues, such as climate change, have become polarized along party lines, with partisans seemingly impervious to disconfirming information. On these highly polarized issues, can framing sway partisans to moderate their positions, or are partisans so motivated in their issue stances that framing fails? Using a variety of vignettes, and Republican climate change skepticism as a case, this article reports an experiment of how partisans respond to counter-attitudinal framing on a sharply polarized issue. Results indicate that Republicans are resistant to frames that encourage support of governmental action or personal engagement against climate change. There is strong evidence of motivated skepticism, given widespread backfire (or ‘boomerang’) effects and decreased attitudinal ambivalence following exposure to framing, suggesting that issue polarization may severely constrain attempts at communication.
Participants: Among Australians, consensus information partially neutralized the influence of worldview, with free-market supporters showing a greater increase in acceptance of human-caused global warming relative to free-market opponents. In contrast, while consensus information overall had a positive effect on perceived consensus among U.S. participants, there was a reduction in perceived consensus and acceptance of human-caused global warming for strong supporters of unregulated free markets. Fitting a Bayes net model to the data indicated that under a Bayesian framework, free-market support is a significant driver of beliefs about climate change and trust in climate scientists. Further, active distrust of climate scientists among a small number of U.S. conservatives drives contrary updating in response to consensus information among this particular group.
This research examined whether framing a natural disaster as the product of climate change impacts attitudes toward disaster victims and humanitarian relief. Participants (n = 211) read an article about a famine caused by severe droughts, with one condition attributing the droughts to climate change and the other condition made no mention of climate change. All participants then responded to measures of justifications for or against providing aid, attitudes toward the possibility of donating, and climate change beliefs. As predicted, those high in climate change skepticism reported greater justifications for not helping the victims when the disaster was attributed to climate change. Additional moderated mediation analyses showed there was an indirect effect of climate change framing on attitudes toward donating through donation justifications.
This study examines non-editorial news coverage in leading US newspapers as a source of ideological differences on climate change. A quantitative content analysis compared how the threat of climate change and efficacy for actions to address it were represented in climate change coverage across The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and USA Today between 2006 and 2011. Results show that The Wall Street Journal was least likely to discuss the impacts of and threat posed by climate change and most likely to include negative efficacy information and use conflict and negative economic framing when discussing actions to address climate change. The inclusion of positive efficacy information was similar across newspapers. Also, across all newspapers, climate impacts and actions to address climate change were more likely to be discussed separately than together in the same article. Implications for public engagement and ideological polarization are discussed. © The Author(s) 2015.