The 2019 Journey in Science series at Rodgers Library for Science & Engineering at the University of Alabama:
I will give a lightening talk summarizing my past and recent research on the topic of American public opinion towards climate change. In this talk, I will discuss the various forces including both natural and socio-political ones that influence American opinion towards this critical issue.
I just published one analysis article on extreme weather and American public opinion towards climate change on the Monkey Cage on Washington Post . Here is one paragraph:
"Here is what is going on: The baseline probabilities of Democrats’ and Republicans’ perceptions of climate change and extreme weather are different. To illustrate, imagine that the probability that someone in Party A believes in human-made climate change may be 80 percent, while that probability for someone in Party B may be only 30 percent. What my research finds is that extreme weather events can change that baseline probability upward, regardless of partisanship or ideology. That change may be more dramatic for those in Party A than Party B. Nevertheless, the change does occur; extreme weather can move the needle."
The recently released Fourth National Climate Assessment sends an urgent message to communities across the nation. Extreme weather events will intensify and become more frequent. The increasing intensity and frequency of extreme weather events will pose serious threats to communities, especially low-income and other marginalized communities. Although many local communities have displayed growing interest in elevating their resilience to the ever changing climatic conditions, much less interest has been shown in mitigating carbon emission as we have seen in the failures to pass carbon tax in even liberal states. Understandably, climate change being the ultimate tragedy of the commons, the benefit of reducing carbon emission is trivial compared to that of taking actions to adapt to climate change at the local level. However, this level of urgency and impact does demand regional and national cooperative framework.
It is disheartening to see the horrific devastation created by wild fires in California. The human society, despite being armed with advanced technology, can feel extremely humbled when confronting the mother nature. Climate change, despite being questioned and denied by some, has certainly played a role in worsening the dry and hot condition in the west, which contributes to an upward trend of big wild fires.
A year after Hurricane Harvey, the decisions to rebuild can affect the future. I just published an analysis article on the Conversation. Here is the last paragraph:
"My recent research shows that even with their flaws, FEMA flood maps influence decisions to purchase flood insurance and overall support for flood mitigation. Policy makers need to seriously consider how to accurately communicate increasing flood risks to the public. Reverting to old flood maps and granting variances to promote development is a recipe for more disasters down the road."
Hat tip to Emily Powell at the National Wildlife Federation, who brought this situation to my attention.
A new paper published on Economics Letters claims that low rainfall can predict assassinations of Roman Emperors from 27 BC to 476 AD. The logic line is: low rainfall -> low food supplies -> more troop mutinies -> assassination of Roman Emperors. Being creative enough, one can find no shortage of interesting topics to study.
A new NBER working paper shows aggregate-level evidence that indicates cumulative exposure to heat can have detrimental impacts on learning. The authors suggest school air conditioning can help mitigate the adverse effects. Evidently, more studies need to be conducted in developing countries where air conditioning is not universally available.
I am honored to be invited to give a seminar talk, entitled "Understanding Human Judgement on Environmental Risks and Hazards in a Geographic Context," at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Princeton University on June 21.
The abstract of the talk is as follows:
"The coupling effects of changing climate and rising concentration of population and assets in the coastal regions have increased the threat of potential damages. There is an urgent need for coastal communities to prepare well for future hazards through mitigation and adaptation measures. A growing number of empirical studies have found that peoples’ motivation of voluntary risk mitigation and adaptation is low unless actual risk can be perceived. Risk perception is thus the precondition for adaptive behavior. It is of both intellectual and practical interests to study what affects individuals’/communities’ risk perceptions. In this talk, I will present four of my previous studies. The first three studies are focused on the individual level and the fourth on the aggregate level. I will start with understanding how local weather and climate affect American public risk perceptions of climate change. I will then discuss how the spatial context represented by past flooding events and estimated flooding risks influence costal residents’ voluntary flood insurance purchase decisions and their support for flood adaptation policies. As many policies are designed and implemented at an aggregate level (i.e., state, county, city), it is necessary to examine aggregate-level risk perceptions. In the fourth study, I will focus on how the contextual hurricane risks in conjunction with community resilience shape county-level perceptions of hurricane-related risks. I will end with a research agenda linking communities’ perception with contextual risks and community resilience. I contend that the cognitive dimension including both risk perceptions and perceived adaptive capacity is not represented in any of the existing community resilience indexes, and therefore needs to be measured, quantified, and incorporated into a more comprehensive index."
Hurricane Harvey dumped record-breaking rain in Houston in 2017. Now, a new study shows that this extreme amounts of rainfalls actually resulted from unprecedented ocean heat content. This study presents some evidence to support the link between global temperature rise with increasing hurricane intensity.