Weather, Salience of Climate Change and Congressional Voting


Herrnstadt, Evan, and Erich Muehlegger. “Weather, Salience of Climate Change and Congressional Voting.” Cambridge, Massachusetts, {USA}: Harvard Environmental Economics Program, 2013.


Climate change is a complex long-run phenomenon. The speed and severity with which it is occurring is difficult to observe, complicating the formation of beliefs for individuals. We use Google Insights search intensity data as a proxy for the salience of climate change and examine how search patterns vary with unusual local weather. We find that searches for "climate change" and "global warming" increase with extreme temperatures and unusual lack of snow. The responsiveness to weather shocks is greater in states that are more reliant on climate-sensitive industries and that elect more environmentally-favorable congressional delegations. Furthermore, we demonstrate that effects of abnormal weather extend beyond search behavior to observable action on environmental issues. We examine the voting records of members of the U.S. Congress from 2004 to 2011 and find that members are more likely to take a pro-environment stance on votes when their home-state experiences unusual weather.

Last updated on 03/26/2015