People who have directly experienced flooding are more likely to be worried about climate change and willing to adopt energy-saving behavior, according to a new study.

Researchers at two British universities based their findings on a 2010 survey of 1,822 individuals across the United Kingdom.

"We show that those who report experience of flooding express more concern over climate change, see it as less uncertain and feel more confident that their actions will have an effect on climate change," the authors write. "Importantly, these perceptual differences also translate into a greater willingness to save energy to mitigate climate change."

Previous psychological research suggests that many people are relatively unconcerned about climate change because they perceive it as a distant issue that will not directly affect them.

But the authors of the new study, researchers at the University of Nottingham and Cardiff University, say their results suggest that drawing links between local weather events and climate change is "likely to be a useful strategy for increasing concern and action."

Their analysis was published yesterday in the journal Nature Climate Change.

The scientists said they chose to frame their study in terms of flooding because the United Kingdom has experienced a series of high-profile, often large-scale, flooding events in recent years.

What are the tipping points toward action?
An earlier study -- conducted after major U.K. floods in 1998 and 2000, and published in 2003 -- found relatively similar levels of concern in those directly affected by flooding and those who did not have that experience.

But given that similarly severe flooding events struck England since 2003, the British research team decided to revisit the issue.

In an essay accompanying the new research, Elke Weber -- a professor of business and psychology at Columbia University -- called the findings "surprising and important."

"Following the failed climate change negotiations in Copenhagen, the prospects for sufficient public concern about climate change and political will to reduce carbon emissions have seemed dim," she wrote. "However, recent events in Tunisia, Egypt and other countries have shown, albeit in a very different context, that increases in the perceived effectiveness of individual and collective action can change attitudes and behaviors quickly and dramatically."

The new study's findings, Weber added, "provide a glimmer of hope that similar 'tipping point' dynamics might exist in the domain of climate change."

Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC., 202-628-6500