Extreme weather events and the politics of climate change attribution

Zuhad Hai, Rebecca L. Perlman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


The consequences of climate change are becoming increasingly visible in the form of more severe wildfires, hurricanes, and flooding. As the science linking these disasters to climate change has grown more robust, it has led to pressure on politicians to acknowledge the connection. While an analysis of U.S. Congressional press releases reveals a slight increase in politicians’ willingness to do so, many remain hesitant. Why? We hypothesize that climate change attribution can backfire, harming politicians’ popularity and undermining their ability to adapt to the visible manifestations of climate change. We conduct an original survey experiment on a representative sample of American adults and show that when a politician links wildfires to climate change, Republicans perceive the official as less capable of addressing weather-related disasters. In addition, Republicans become less supportive of efforts to protect against similar disasters in the future. Our findings shed light on the potential trade-offs of conveying the link between climate change and its impacts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbereabo2190
JournalScience Advances
Issue number36
StatePublished - Sep 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General


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