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Journal Article

Changing seasonal temperature offers a window of opportunity for stricter climate policy


Pfeifer,  Lena
External Organizations;


Otto,  Ilona M.
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research;

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Pfeifer, L., Otto, I. M. (2023): Changing seasonal temperature offers a window of opportunity for stricter climate policy. - Environmental Science and Policy, 140, 35-45.

Cite as: https://publications.pik-potsdam.de/pubman/item/item_27643
Environmental catastrophes, including the increased severity and frequency of climate extremes, can act as “windows of opportunities” that challenge citizens’ mental models and motivate them to engage in reflective processes, challenging their pre-conceived ideas. Less well understood is whether experiencing changing weather conditions, common in mid-latitudes, can have a similar effect and increase the citizens’ concerns about climate change and their willingness to accept more stringent climate policies. In this paper, we investigate the effects of changing seasonal temperature on the perceived seriousness of climate change and willingness to mitigate climate change. We use data from four yearly waves of a spatially explicit representative population survey in Germany and weather records from the postal code areas in which they live. To our knowledge, this study is the first analysis to link individual perceptions towards climate change and different mitigation options with seasonal temperature changes at specific locations in Europe. The analyzed perceptions were strongly influenced by socio-demographic characteristics and broader societal changes, as well as individual experiences of seasonal temperatures. The results show that experienced seasonal temperature change influences personal climate change concerns as well as the willingness to mitigate climate change, although with a weaker effect. The results indicate that it is the absolute temperature variation experienced that is important, rather than whether it is getting colder or warmer than usual. Considering the influences identified in this study can offer a window of opportunity for more stringent and targeted climate change policy.