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Journal Article

Strong increase of racist tweets outside of climate comfort zone in Europe


Stechemesser,  Annika
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research;


Wenz,  Leonie
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research;


Kotz,  Maximilian
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research;


Levermann,  Anders
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research;

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Stechemesser, A., Wenz, L., Kotz, M., Levermann, A. (2021): Strong increase of racist tweets outside of climate comfort zone in Europe. - Environmental Research Letters, 16, 11, 114001.

Cite as: https://publications.pik-potsdam.de/pubman/item/item_26020
Ambient temperature has been identified as a potential cause for human conflict in a variety of studies. Conflict is no longer limited to the physical space but exists in the form of hate and discrimination on social media. Here we provide evidence that the amount of racist and xenophobic content posted to the social media platform Twitter is nonlinearly influenced by temperature. Exploiting the linguistic plurality of Europe, we statistically analyse daily temperature data and more than 10 million racist tweets from six different countries spanning several climate zones for the years 2012-2018. Using a fixed-effects panel regression model that utilizes exogenous variation in local weather and controls for unobserved omitted variables, we identify the effect of population-weighted daily average temperature on the daily number of racist tweets and likes. We find a quasi-quadratic temperature response of racist tweets that is inversely proportional to the temperature distribution. Fewest racist tweets and likes are found for daily average temperatures between 5°C and 11°C, i.e. temperatures that are frequently experienced. Temperatures warmer or colder than that are associated with steep, nonlinear increases. Analyses at the country-level confirm this climate comfort zone of 5°C to 11°C across different European climatic zones. In the Southern European countries this is colder than the most frequently experienced temperatures, pointing to possible limits of adaptation. Within the next 30 years, the number of days outside this climate comfort zone, weighted by the identified temperature-racist-tweet response curve, will increase across parts of Europe, indicating that rising temperatures could aggravate xenophobia and racism in social media.