Although severe weather events are becoming more frequent and more severe, for many citizens, climate change and its consequences are still a distant concern. In the United States, Republicans, in particular, have expressed skepticism about the threat posed by climate change. Is this skepticism reduced by direct experience with severe weather events?
Using two surveys of registered voters in North Carolina, we test whether the threat of being hit by Hurricane Florence, or experiencing its effects directly through power loss, flooding, or wind damage, was associated with reduced skepticism about the impact of climate change.
Republican voters who were the most threatened by the storm and who experienced one or more of its impacts were more likely to say climate change poses a threat to the state than their copartisans who were not threatened or impacted. However, among highly educated and motivated Republican voters, experience with Hurricane Florence was associated with increased skepticism about climate change.
Severe weather events have the potential to moderate climate change skepticism in the United States but not among the most engaged, dedicated partisans.