Citizen engagement in climate adaptation surveyed: The role of values, worldviews, gender and place

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Abstract

Local governments’ limited mandate and capacity to adequately deal with increasing climate risk and impacts means that citizen engagement is becoming increasingly important for adapting to hazards such as floods and storms. Stronger collaborative approaches are urgently needed. At the same time, there is little research and hardly any empirical evidence on what inspires adaptation engagement in different citizen groups. Against this background, this paper examines the external/material (e.g., resources, hazards, public support) and internal aspects (e.g., values and worldviews) that shape people's engagement in and for adaptation. Based on a survey of Swedish citizens at risk from severe climate events, we show that engagement is a gendered process, which is mediated by personal values, worldviews and place—aspects rarely considered in public adaptation. While a high level of diverse citizen action is often related to past experiences of hazards, motivation to adapt goes beyond the idea of acting out of rational self-interest. Economic considerations (e.g., low cost) are not the only motivation to adapt; the potential of an adaptation action to contribute to green, thriving surroundings and mitigate global climate change was found nearly as (and among female respondents, more) motivating. Women were also found to be more motivated to engage in adaptation if this supports other community members at risk. At the same time, past adaptation action could not be linked to motivation to adapt, and was found to be negatively correlated with communitarian and ecological values or worldviews. This confirms that motivation to adapt does not automatically translate into action, and indicates a ‘mitigation–adaptation gap’ in people's climate awareness, which can lead to ineffective climate responses. Given these findings, we discuss alternative approaches to support increased citizen engagement and more effective and transformative climate action. We end with a call for public adaptation and risk communication that takes greater account of inner/subjective dimensions.

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Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Political Science (excluding Public Administration Studies and Globalization Studies)

Keywords

  • Citizen participation, Climate change adaptation, Disaster risk reduction, Ecosystem-based adaptation, Inner dimensions, Willingness to adapt
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1342-1353
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Volume209
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Publication categoryResearch
Peer-reviewedYes