Voters who have experienced severe weather events are more likely to be in favor of environmental legislation -- even if it comes at a cost of restricting some individual freedoms, according to a soon-to-be-published study.

In a 2009 Internet survey of about 2,500 Americans, four Hamilton College economists found that weather events like heat waves and drought tended to have the greatest impact on people who aren't otherwise well-informed about global warming.

"[O]ur results are consistent with the idea that experiencing extreme weather causes individuals to become more aware of the issue of global warming, and increases their perception of the risk of global warming," authors of the study wrote.

Lead author Ann Owen, a professor of economics at Hamilton College, told USA Today that the findings could also be extrapolated to include other types of extreme weather events like blizzards and hurricanes.

The authors concluded that bad weather may hurt conservative candidates who refuse to support environmental legislation.

During the current Congress, House Republicans have voted at least 21 times to block climate measures.

Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, the current GOP frontrunner, has said that he believes that the world is getting warmer but he's not in a hurry to do anything about it.

"Scientists will figure that out ten, twenty, fifty years from now," Romney said earlier this month. "But the right policy for me is, use our domestic sources of energy — including our renewables, and our gas, and our coal, and our nuclear, and our oil — and that’s the right course for America."

The Global Carbon Project recently revealed that global carbon emissions, seen as the driver for climate change, grew at the fastest rate in recorded history in 2010.

Findings from the Hamilton College study are set to be published in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management.

Photo: Flickr/Yepoka Yeebo