Wildfire Exposure Increases Pro-Climate Political Behaviors

23 Pages Posted: 20 Sep 2019 Last revised: 29 Sep 2019

See all articles by Chad Hazlett

Chad Hazlett


Matto Mildenberger

University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) - Department of Political Science

Date Written: September 13, 2019


Despite the climate threat's severity, global policy responses remain anemic. One political challenge has been the temporal mismatch between short-term climate policy costs and long-term climate policy benefits. Will this policymaking obstacle weaken as the impacts of climate change begin to realize? Here we analyze the impact of a climate-related hazard on public support for costly climate reforms. Using a natural experiment based on randomness in the timing of California wildfires we link, for the first time, threat exposure to realized political behavior rather than self-reported attitudes or behavioral intentions. We find that census block groups within 15 km of a wildfire have approximately 4 to 6 percentage points higher support for costly pro-climate ballot measures. The effects are stronger for block groups closest to wildfires, dropping by approximately 1.7 percentage points for every 10km of distance. Moreover, the effect is concentrated among census block groups with a large or medium concentrations of Democratic voters; by contrast, voters in Republican-dominated census block groups are largely unresponsive to wildfires. Our results suggest that experienced climate threats may only enhance willingness-to-act in areas where the public already holds pro-climate identities.

Suggested Citation

Hazlett, Chad and Mildenberger, Matto, Wildfire Exposure Increases Pro-Climate Political Behaviors (September 13, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3452958 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3452958

Chad Hazlett

UCLA ( email )

405 Hilgard Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1472
United States

Matto Mildenberger (Contact Author)

University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) - Department of Political Science ( email )

Dept. of Political Science
University of California
Santa Barbara, CA 93106-9420
United States

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