The effects of extreme drought on climate change beliefs, risk perceptions, and adaptation attitudes
The role of extreme weather events in shaping people’s climate change beliefs and adaptation attitudes has been extensively studied and discussed in academic literature, the popular press, and policy circles. In this manuscript, we contribute to the debate by using data from pre- and post-extreme event surveys to examine the effects of the 2012 Midwestern US drought on agricultural advisors’ climate change beliefs, adaptation attitudes, and risk perceptions. We found that neither climate change beliefs nor attitudes toward adaptation changed significantly as a result of the drought. Risk perceptions did change, however, with advisors becoming more concerned about risks from drought and pests and less concerned about risks related to flooding and ponding. Though increased risk perceptions were significantly associated with more favorable adaptation attitudes, the effects were not large enough to cause an overall shift to more favorable attitudes toward adaptation. The results suggest that extreme climate events might not cause significant shifts in climate beliefs, at least not immediately. Additionally, the results caution that policy designs that rely on increasing risk perceptions to motivate action on climate change may be overestimating the effects of extreme events on feeling at risk, at least in the context of buffered systems such as large commercial agriculture in the US.
KeywordsClimate Change Risk Perception Extreme Event Climate Change Adaptation Climate Adaptation
The authors would like to thank Jim Angel, J. Gordon Arbuckle, Jr., Mike Hayes, Jon Hobbs, Cosimo Matassa, Mark Svboda, and Melissa Widhalm for their help in conceptualizing and preparing this manuscript. This research was supported by Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Competitive Grant no. 2011-68002-30220 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture and by NOAA Sectoral Applications Research Program (SARP) grant number NA13OAR431012.
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