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COVID-19 led to a decline in climate and environmental concern: evidence from UK panel data

Beiser-Mcgrath, Liam ORCID: 0000-0001-9745-0320 (2022) COVID-19 led to a decline in climate and environmental concern: evidence from UK panel data. Climatic Change, 174 (3 - 4). ISSN 0165-0009

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Identification Number: 10.1007/s10584-022-03449-1


A key question in understanding barriers to climate and environmental policy is whether changing economic conditions weaken individuals’ support for climate and environmental action. The large body of literature examining this question, however, has come to contradictory results, with studies measuring changes within individuals typically finding no such effect (e.g. Mildenberger and Leiserowitz, Env Polit 26(5):801–824 2017). In this letter, I use the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic to provide a stringent test of how economic shocks affect concern for climate change and the environment. Using panel data from the UK, that was collected just before (November 2019) and just after (June 2020) the outbreak of COVID-19, I find that the pandemic caused individuals to significantly deprioritise climate change and the environment in absolute terms, and the environment relative to the economy. These effects significantly vary depending upon individuals’ employment trajectories, concerns about the cost of living, and ideological preferences, but do not significantly vary by individuals’ prior vote choice. The findings suggest that in times of severe economic distress, unlike smaller economic downturns, climate change and the environment is deprioritised. This has implications for our understanding of the political feasibility of climate and environmental action, when individuals are faced with harsh economic conditions.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2022 The Author, under exclusive licence to Springer Nature B.V.
Divisions: Social Policy
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare. Criminology
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
Date Deposited: 31 Oct 2022 16:21
Last Modified: 24 May 2024 16:24

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