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Blog Post · July 26, 2023

Heightened Concerns about Heat Waves and Flooding Due to Climate Change

photo - Sun Office Buildings and Main Roads in the Financial District in Los Angeles

With ongoing record-high heat in California, across the nation, and in much of the northern hemisphere, the effects of climate change are a widespread and growing concern. In California, residents have endured successive heat waves while simultaneously preparing for wildfire season, recovering from historic flooding, and bracing for the melting of record-level snowpack in the southern Sierra Nevada mountains. In the midst of these extreme events, record-high numbers of Californians are registering strong concerns about heat waves and flooding.

Most Californians agree about the cause of these events. According to PPIC’s July Statewide Survey, an overwhelming majority of adults—77%—believe climate change is a contributor to extreme weather. This view is widespread, with strong majorities across regions and demographic groups in agreement on this point.

Heat waves are a particular concern. With a potentially historic heat wave lingering over the state—one that may produce record or near-record temperatures—85% of adults are concerned about climate change causing heat waves that are more severe, with a record high of 56% saying they are very concerned. Last July, 83% were concerned (49% very concerned).

Overwhelming majorities across regions as well as partisan and demographic groups are concerned, with Democrats (69%), African Americans (68%), and lower-income earners (66%) the most likely to say are very concerned. Shares saying they are very concerned are noticeably higher among women (63%) than men (49%) and renters (62%) than homeowners (51%).

In the wake of historic floods earlier this year that resulted in more than 20 deaths and billions of dollars in property damage, concern about flooding has also grown. Today, an all-time high of 69% of Californians are concerned about increased flooding due to climate change, with one-third saying they are very concerned about it. When we last asked this question in 2013, 56% said they were concerned (28% very concerned).

Today, solid majorities across the state’s regions as well as partisan and demographic groups are concerned; African Americans (47%), Democrats (42%), San Francisco Bay Area residents (40%), and women (40%) are most likely to say they are very concerned.

Strong majorities of Californians are also concerned about climate change causing greater severity in droughts (63% very, 26% somewhat) and wildfires (62% very, 28% somewhat), as well as causing sea level rise (33% very, 36% somewhat). But unlike heat waves and flooding, the level of concern about these impacts has not changed much in recent years.

With 2023 on track to being one of—if not thehottest years on record, world leaders and representatives from around the globe continue to meet and discuss potential actions to combat climate change. Stay tuned to the PPIC Statewide Survey as we continue to track views on critical environmental issues.


climate change Drought extreme weather Floods Political Landscape Statewide Survey Water, Land & Air wildfires