This paper investigates the extent to which the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster of March 2011 has had an impact on the private demand for climate protection in Germany. On March 11, 2011 the Tohoku earthquake and subsequent tsunami hit Japan and the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Within a few days, the nuclear power plant went in to melt down and released radioactive material into both the air and the ocean. The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster sparked a worldwide discussion about the use of nuclear energy and the security of nuclear power plants. However, despite having major humanitarian and environmental consequences, can the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster impact the private demand for climate protection in Germany?

Immediately following the disaster a debate about the use of nuclear power started in Germany. As a consequence of the disaster, the German government decreed an out phasing of nuclear power plants. This significant change in German energy policy will ceteris-paribus result in an increase in national CO2 emissions as Germany abstains from one carbon free technology. Therefore, in order to ensure the same national CO2 emissions the change in German energy policy implies a higher private willingness to contribute to climate protection. Another argument is that climate change is a potential driver of extreme weather events which could become a factor causing future nuclear disasters. Therefore, the increased awareness of nuclear disasters, as a direct result of the events in Fukushima, could also influence the willingness to contribute to climate protection.

Data for the demand for climate protection in this paper are taken from two framed field experiments conducted in Mannheim, Germany, before and after the disaster. Within both experiments subjects had the opportunity to invest in climate protection by purchasing and withdrawing permits from the European Emission Trading Scheme (EU ETS) using their own disposable income.

We find that the individual demand for climate protection among a sample of the residential population of Mannheim has changed significantly between March 2010 and December 2011. The demand for climate protection identified in the experiment following the nuclear disaster is significantly higher than in the experiment before the disaster. We conclude that individuals who wish to guarantee a certain level of national climate protection or who are aware of potential consequences of climate change for extreme weather events increased their private willingness to contribute to climate protection.

Keywords

Experimental economics, demand for climate protection