Discussion paper

DP18738 Experience, Narratives, and Climate Change Beliefs

Linking the location and timing of FEMA-declared disasters to large-scale electoral survey data, we study how the experience of a natural disaster affects climate change beliefs, and how experience interacts with ideology. Contrary to the predictions of standard learning models, we find evidence for divergence in beliefs – exposure to the same disaster event increases stated climate change and environmental concerns among liberals, but decreases them among conservatives, widening the ideological gap by 11-17%. We further provide evidence of conflicting ideological media discourse on climate change in the aftermath of disasters by applying Chat-GPT as a novel text annotation approach. Our findings are consistent with natural disasters making the debate around climate change and partisan cleavages on this issue more salient and further polarizing initial beliefs.


Djourelova, M, R Durante, E Motte and E Patacchini (2024), ‘DP18738 Experience, Narratives, and Climate Change Beliefs‘, CEPR Discussion Paper No. 18738. CEPR Press, Paris & London. https://cepr.org/publications/dp18738