An All Things Considered report on National Public Radio that focused on the upside of Iowa’s drought last summer included an interview with Ann Owen, the Henry Platt Bristol Professor of Economics. In “The Silver Lining In Drought: 5 Upsides To Rain-Free Weather,” Owen discussed the study, “Heat Waves, Droughts, and Preferences for Environmental Policy,” that she co-authored with Assistant Professor of Economics Emily Conover, Associate Professor of Economics Julio Videras and Professor of Economics Stephen Wu. The study was published in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management in 2012. The program was broadcast on Jan. 28.
The study found that people who experience a weather catastrophe are much more inclined to support legislation about the environment, regardless of political affiliation and even when it restricts personal freedoms. According to the paper’s abstract, the four researchers found “evidence that the channel through which weather conditions affect policy preference is via perceptions of the importance of the issue of global warming. Furthermore, environmentalists and individuals who consult more sources of news are less likely to have their attitudes toward global warming changed by current weather conditions. These findings suggest that communication and education emphasizing consequences of climate change salient to the individual's circumstances may be the most effective in changing attitudes of those least likely to support proenvironment policy. In addition, the timing of policy introduction could influence its success.”