Feeling the heat

In chilly parts of Europe, heatwaves strengthen environmentalism

Support for green parties rises following unusually warm years

English placeholder caption

THE BIGGEST obstacles to slowing climate change are political. Although carbon emissions can be slashed with current technologies, such cuts are perceived to require sacrifices today in order to reduce the risk of calamity in future. Many voters refuse to shoulder these costs.

Global temperatures are already rising fast. Even if today’s weather extremes may look mild by future standards, they are still more severe than those of the past. In theory, unusual weather events like dry or warm spells might have a silver lining: providing a wake-up call to complacent voters. A recent paper by Roman Hoffmann, Raya Muttarak and Jonas Peisker of IIASA, a think-tank, and Piero Stanig of Bocconi University finds evidence for this pattern, with a caveat. It shows up mostly in rich countries with cool climates.

To test the link between weather and environmentalism, the authors compiled data on wildfires, droughts, floods and temperatures in 1,239 European administrative areas in 1994-2019…