NWC REU 2019
May 21 - July 30



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Preparing to adapt: Are public expectations in line with climate projections?

Carley Eschliman, Emma Kuster, and Adrienne Wootten


What is already known:

  • The American public, compared to the scientific community, has a lower proportion of climate change acceptance.
  • Demographic, ideological, and experiential factors can influence one’s climate change acceptance, such as: gender, age, race, political affiliation, recent weather experience, and whether one lives in an urban or rural area.
  • Past work suggests that the American public thinks about future temperature and precipitation differently, namely that their opinions of temperature change is often more highly politicized and, as such, more susceptible to the influence of ideological factors.
  • How aligned public expectations of future climate are with climate projections is unknown.

What this study adds:

  • Oklahomans expect a future that is colder and wetter than what projections suggest.
  • There is more variation among Oklahomans’ expectations of future precipitation than future temperature.
  • Future temperature expectation consistency with projections is most significantly affected by one’s perception of how hot or cold the past three years were.
  • Expectation consistency with projections is also significantly affected by age, political affiliation, gender, and recent dry weather experience.


In this study, we compare public expectations of future climate with climate projections. Along with identifying general trends, we examine how one’s expectations may relate to demographic and ideological factors, as well as past weather experience. Through our analysis of a state-wide survey of Oklahomans in 2019, we find that Oklahomans, on average, expect a colder, wetter future than climate projections suggest. The consistency of one’s temperature change expectations with projections was significantly related to one’s gender, age, political affiliation, and perceptions about recent temperature anomalies. In particular, females, Democrats, millennials, and those who thought the past three years were hotter than average were more likely to expect a future consistent with or hotter than projections. Meanwhile, consistency between expectations of future changes in precipitation and projections were related to one’s recent drought experience, age, political affiliation, and temperature anomaly perceptions. However, these differences were only seen to be significant for two of the three model ensembles. Our results suggest that expectations of future temperatures are more likely to be influenced by ideological and demographic variables than expectations of future precipitation.

Full Paper [PDF]