This paper uses a SEM model to analyze results from an in-depth survey distributed in 2017 to better understand how residents of the Albemarle Pamlico Peninsula, NC, which is highly vulnerable to climate change, are viewing adaptation decisions. Our results show that residents who are concerned about future trends are more open to moving away from their community. We find that an optimistic perception of flooding over the past two decades (i.e. flooding has gotten better, storms have gotten milder, etc.) is associated with reluctance to engage in protective measures generally. We also found that a resident’s pessimistic perception of past events, absent of concerns about the future, is correlated with a greater openness for in situ adaptation measures.
Our findings push forward the understanding of the factors that prompt resident willingness (and similarly, unwillingness) to consider taking measures to adapt to climate change. Understanding the process that leaves residents willing to retreat or protect themselves is critical to governments’ ability to mitigate long-term risk. Moreover, this information is critical to informing the strategies that local, state, and federal governments use in approaching and encouraging individuals to take proactive measures to mitigate increasing climate risk to their properties, livelihoods, and health.
These findings, and results from future studies, can be used to inform communication strategies that may prompt residents to take precautionary measures to reduce their personal risk, as well as the risk of their communities and the state at large. The abstract for the article is below:
The growing cost of climate-driven coastal impacts requires an improved understanding of how coastal populations engage with adaptation decisions. While many studies explore factors driving coastal adaptation, generally, few evaluate how residents consider relationships between in situ, protective adaption vs. retreat from at-risk areas. What is the relationship between residents’ exposure, perceptions of climate trends, and concerns about the future? How do these factors influence attitudes openness to different adaption strategies? Are these strategies considered to be progressive – where protection is indexed to minor threats and retreat occurs when protection measures fail – or are these dichotomous choices? We apply structural equation modeling to evaluate these decision pathways using a 2017 household survey in North Carolina’s (USA) Albemarle-Pamlico Peninsula (n=147). Our results reveal that residents commonly view protection and retreat as mutually exclusive, rather than progressive, methods for reducing risk, and that their preferences are correlated with different understandings of climate threats.