The Connection Between Hurricane Impact and Public Response to Climate Change–a Study of Sarasota Residents One Year After Hurricane Irma

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Climate change, Hurricane Irma, Psychological distance, Public opinion

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Hurricane Irma struck Sarasota, Florida, in September 2017, inflicting extensive damage throughout the community. Based on data from a survey conducted one year after the hurricane, this study tests whether the perceived impact of the hurricane has brought the psychological distance of climate change closer and increased one’s belief regarding climate change. The study also investigates the connection between the belief and action of reducing climate change impact. The structural equation modeling results reveal that the perceived damage from Hurricane Irma is positively related to the public embrace of the existence and human cause of climate change. Increased belief regarding climate change can then promote activities of environmental protection. This study is among the first of its kind to investigate the perspective of local residents post Hurricane Irma. These findings contribute to the existing literature concerning public understanding of climate change after communities experience major climate extreme events. The findings also carry important policy implications about how to mobilize individual’s belief in climate change and translate that belief into action.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Environmental and Sustainability Indicators, v. 7, art. 100049