Public support of climate policies crucially depends on climate change beliefs. Here we analyze the effects of natural disaster experience on the belief in the existence of climate change. The primary data source is a panel survey covering 22,251 observations from 11,194 geo-located households collected in Germany between 2012 and 2015, combined with satellite imagery of a major flood event in 2013. We find that flood experience had a significant positive effect on the beliefs in the existence of climate change for those respondents living close to the flooded area. However, the effect decreases sharply with distance. We further show that this overall effect is driven by those respondents who already believed in climate change before the flood – they saw their belief confirmed by their experience. In contrast, spatial proximity to the flood had no measurable effect on skeptics. These results imply that climate skeptics may not be influenced by the experience of natural disasters at their doorsteps.


Natural Disaster, Flooding, Climate Change Beliefs