Climate change beliefs more influenced by long-term temperature fluctuations

October 31, 2014 by Phil Ciciora, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Climate change beliefs more influenced by long-term temperature fluctuations
Longer-run local temperature fluctuations are significant predictors of beliefs about the occurrence of global warming, according to a paper by Tatyana Deryugina, a professor of finance in the College of Business.

In spite of the broad scientific consensus about its existence, global warming remains a contentious public policy issue. Yet it's also an issue that requires a public consensus to support policies that might curb or counteract it.

According to research from a University of Illinois expert in environmental and behavioral economics, the task of educating the public about climate change might be made easier or more difficult depending on their perception of short-term versus long-term temperature changes.

A paper by Tatyana Deryugina, a professor of finance in the College of Business, finds that longer-run local temperature fluctuations – abnormally warm or cold temperatures that last from one month up to a year – are significant predictors of beliefs about the occurrence of . On the other hand, short-run temperature fluctuations – from a day up to two weeks – have no effect on those beliefs.

The finding is significant because it might help to explain how people form and update beliefs about climate change, Deryugina said.

"Although the time for mitigation is running out, both the U.S. and the international community have failed to produce a comprehensive binding agreement to combat climate change," she said. "There are many possible reasons for this, but the lack of public pressure may be an important contributing factor. That's why it's essential to understand how individual beliefs about climate change are formed and what causes them to evolve."

Using a multiyear survey, Deryugina tested whether local temperature abnormalities influenced how individuals formed conclusions about the occurrence of global warming.

"The main point is that people use their local weather to update their beliefs about climate change," she said. "That finding isn't new – other papers have found similar things. However, those papers focused on short-term abnormalities of one day to one week, which, in my data, doesn't seem to matter as much as longer-run abnormalities, on the order of two months or more."

One way to interpret the results is that people aren't going to feel a sense of urgency until climate change is well underway, Deryugina said.

"If people judge the occurrence of climate change by whether it's hot or cold now, we're going to have to suffer quite a bit before any mitigation policy we implement actually has an effect," she said. "So even if the international community eventually gets something done, it might be too little, too late, since some greenhouse gases remain in the atmosphere for decades or longer.

"This means any policy we implement now is going to have a delayed effect, which, in turn, means that we need to be forward-looking in implementing it," she said.

Although the research doesn't indicate what weight people give to national or global temperatures, Deryugina said it doesn't rule out the possibility that individuals "observe weather everywhere but irrationally give greater weight to local weather."

"People give extra weight to local temperatures, but how much extra is hard to say," she said.

It's also possible that the effects of temperatures are indirect.

"The exact pathway through which the effects of temperature work is difficult to determine," Deryugina said. "For example, more extreme temperatures could lead to more discussion of global warming in local media and more exposure to other evidence about global warming, such as reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change."

People also tend to forget events like heat waves, "which seem to make no difference in their beliefs about ," Deryugina said.

"All the surveys I use were done in March, so all heat waves would have happened 8 to 11 months before the survey," she said. "Although from this long ago do affect beliefs, have, surprisingly, no effect."

The study was published in the journal Climatic Change.

Explore further: Blowing hot and cold: US belief in climate change shifts with weather

More information: The study is available online:

Related Stories

Adjusting to climate change

September 4, 2014

New findings suggest battling climate change could be a challenge, urge the global community to transform its energy system or face grim consequences.

Recommended for you

Semimetals are high conductors

March 18, 2019

Researchers in China and at UC Davis have measured high conductivity in very thin layers of niobium arsenide, a type of material called a Weyl semimetal. The material has about three times the conductivity of copper at room ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

3.9 / 5 (11) Oct 31, 2014
The Deniers are not driven by science, they are driven blindly by political prejudice, a terrible way to make policy.
Eddy Courant
1.6 / 5 (7) Oct 31, 2014
The deniers are idiots! How can they deny the pause? No warming in 20 years?
4.1 / 5 (9) Oct 31, 2014
The deniers are idiots! How can they deny the pause? No warming in 20 years?

Because the data shows that surface temperatures have warmed with statistical significance over the last 20 (and 19) years. And the surface has warmed (but not statistically significant) over the last 18, 17, 16, 15, etc. years. And that evidence also shows that the earth as a whole has continued to heat up year after year.
2.3 / 5 (9) Oct 31, 2014
Climate change happens, since the planet got an atmosphere, climates have changed..

It's the incessant yapping about anthropomorphic and how we can change anything by charging people to use carbon, that's the problem.
1.6 / 5 (7) Oct 31, 2014
I found it remarkable how children are different from their parents. I would bet Tatiana's parents are 90s immigrants whose soviet background made them immune to propaganda. Apparently, they failed to nurture their daughter rudimentary critical thinking skills.
2.7 / 5 (7) Oct 31, 2014
They need these pro-nuke folk in Fukushima. They do not know where the molten blobs of the reactor vessels and the cores are in any of the three units. To find out is a terminal assignment. Who wants to show nukes are safe?
Captain Stumpy
3.8 / 5 (10) Oct 31, 2014
they failed to nurture their daughter rudimentary critical thinking skills
blatant lie
argument from ignorance
conspiratorial belief which means your premiss is based upon a fallacy

apparently it is you who lack critical thinking skills
you ignore empirical data like this: http://marine.rut..._pub.pdf
or this: http://www.scienc...abstract
while making claims denying AGW even exists
this makes you either a paid troll, like here: http://www.drexel...nge.ashx
fearful of peer pressure like here: http://arstechnic...nformed/
or simply delusional and stupid, like here:

take your pick
feel free to refute the studies with empirical evidence of the same type
2 / 5 (4) Nov 01, 2014
Or you could find the truth here.
3 / 5 (4) Nov 01, 2014


If we "save" the environment with nuclear power, it will be for the giant roaches which will replace us.
2.3 / 5 (3) Nov 02, 2014
there is nothing contentious about fraud. those who benefit from it want the fraud to go on and lie about it, those who don't care ignore it, and those who are realize they are victimized by it in one of many ways sometimes try and point out where specifically the fraud is.

the frausters, if they are particularly sophisticated recruit and pay for advertising and brainwashing the disinterested to be on their side as a cause of righteousness. and the fact so many of you alarmists believe the sentences above described the 'deniers' you have defined as anti-the truth----shows how truly brainwashed you are.

goldman sachs pays to advertise global warming, they claim they are doing gods work since 2008. and they were never insolvent either . and id like to sell you the brooklyn bridge.
1 / 5 (3) Nov 03, 2014
...goldman sachs pays to advertise global warming, they claim they are doing gods work since 2008. and they were never insolvent either . and id like to sell you the brooklyn bridge.

Hey the bankers need a scam to keep them protected from public attention. AGW works just as well as blaming the Jews did. For these people see the non-cult members as a direct threat to their lives. It's well known that in order to control the public, propagandists use scary terminology and "science" that is indistinguishable from magic to push their agendas.

In the early 20th Century it was genetics and Eugenics. So I am sure that playbook is still back on it's way around and the cultists will start talking about exterminating the non-believers. Oops they already started that in the other article where they are talking about extinction level events. How long before these retards try to make the talk into action?

Not that I am personally worried, but this could get out of hand.
4.2 / 5 (5) Nov 03, 2014
Why do those not in this field assume those in it have their character? The fields are very different. Fudging is de rigeur for business, finance, religion, sales, politics, and the other field WE invented.

Joe Blue must be a car salesman or something because he always assumes we are all crooked. He apparently does not understand science and how everything must be real, must be verifiable, must be predictable. In science there are hordes of folk hoping to make their mark by proving you wrong. You folk are really removed from reality, in your own little sleazy world of poor character.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.