Natural Disaster, Environmental Concerns, Well-Being and Policy Action : The Case of Fukushima
We study the impact of the Fukushima disaster on environmental concerns and well‐being in Germany and other industrialized countries, more than 5,000 miles distant. While we do not find evidence that subjective well‐being was significantly affected — not in Germany, Switzerland, or the UK — the disaster significantly increased environmental concerns by about 20% among Germans. Empirical evidence suggests that the operating channel through which the disaster affected environmental concerns was primarily through the perceived risk of a similar meltdown of domestic reactors. Additionally, more Germans considered themselves as very risk averse after Fukushima. Drastic policy action in Germany permanently shut down the oldest reactors, implemented the phase‐out of the remaining ones, and proclaimed the transition to renewables. This energy policy turnaround was largely supported by the German population and contributed to the subsequent significant decrease in environmental concerns, particularly among women, Green Party supporters, and people living close to the oldest reactors.
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