Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Evan Stewart

Second Advisor

Elizabeth Brown

Third Advisor

Travis Johnston


The climate crisis has created an environmentally precarious new normal for people living in America. This includes exposure to more frequent and less predictable severe weather events. Though, there exists an unresolved empirical question: has cultural life in America adapted to an environmentally precarious new normal? My dissertation fills this gap in the literature by examining effects severe weather exposure and perceived climate risk have on climate and environmental attitudes among people living in the United States. In tune with modernist theories in sociology, one expectation is that cultural life in America is adapting to precarious weather by accepting scientifically informed expertise for managing and calculating climate risk. Conversely, mass polarization and paradox theories suggest that climate change will be evaluated along partisan lines regardless of proximity to harm caused by climate change. I advance this debate with three empirical studies. In my first empirical study, I looked at long-term aggerate level change by examining if support for environmental initiatives was positively associated with exposure to severe weather, cohort replacement, or both. In my second empirical study, I looked at long-term individual level change by examining if hurricane exposure was associated with increased concern for climate change and support for environmental initiatives among people disproportionately exposed to hurricanes. My final empirical study looked at short-term individual level change by using results from a novel nationally representative survey experiment entitled Culture of the Climate Crisis. This survey incorporated two direct interventions to test effects of varying levels of perceived proximal risk from climate change on a range of climate and environmental attitudes. My research shows that exposure (including perceived exposure) to climate risk is motivating cultural support for environmental initiatives and acceptance that climate change is happening. Additionally, findings give context for how Americans think about the climate crisis, as well as have important implications for implementing efficient climate change mitigation and adaption initiatives.


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