Regional Environmental Change

, Volume 13, Issue 4, pp 897–909 | Cite as

What motivates coastal households to adapt pro-actively to sea-level rise and increasing flood risk?

  • Jana KoerthEmail author
  • Athanasios T. Vafeidis
  • Jochen Hinkel
  • Horst Sterr
Original Article


Individuals are able to contribute in reducing vulnerability to climate change and extreme events. This study addresses the question of what motivates coastal dwellers to adapt proactively to rising sea-levels and associated flood events. Data were collected through a questionnaire survey that was carried out in Germany and Denmark. Two elements based on variables of the Protection Motivation Theory were constructed, which depict the perceptions of flood risk and household-level adaptation. In addition, individual and residence-related characteristics were included. First, descriptive statistical analysis on adaptation behaviour and the two elements was conducted. Then, multiple regression analysis was applied to determine which variables influence the total number of implemented adaptation measures. Finally, the implementation of single adaptation measures was investigated using binary logistic regression analysis. Results indicate that personal experience is the main explanatory factor for adaptation behaviour while cognitive variables and personal history are also important. The independent variables that we used can, to a large extent, predict the implementation of measures that require small investments in terms of efforts and costs. However, the implementation of high-investment measures cannot be explained based on these variables. Our findings suggest that risk communication in coastal management should also integrate variables related to adaptation behaviour, and further research is needed to better understand the implementation of high-investment adaptation measures.


Household-level adaptation Coastal flooding Protection Motivation Theory Self-efficacy 



This project was funded by the Cluster of Excellence 80 “The Future Ocean”. “The Future Ocean” is funded within the framework of the Excellence Initiative by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) on behalf of the German federal and state governments. We would also like to thank the two anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments, which have helped in improving the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jana Koerth
    • 1
    Email author
  • Athanasios T. Vafeidis
    • 1
  • Jochen Hinkel
    • 2
    • 3
  • Horst Sterr
    • 1
  1. 1.“Coastal Risks and Sea-Level Rise” Research Group, Future Ocean Excellence Cluster, Department of GeographyChristian-Albrechts-University KielKielGermany
  2. 2.Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK)PotsdamGermany
  3. 3.European Climate Forum e.V. (ECF)Research Process: Adaptation and Social LearningPotsdamGermany

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