Regional Environmental Change

, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp 171–186 | Cite as

Climate change adaptation: factors influencing Chinese smallholder farmers’ perceived self-efficacy and adaptation intent

Original Article


Understanding how individuals perceive their ability to adapt to climate change is critical to understanding adaptation decision-making. Drawing on a survey of 483 smallholder farmer households in the Loess Plateau region of China, we examine the factors that shape smallholder farmer perceptions of their ability to adapt to climate change and their stated intent to do so. We apply a proportional odds ordered logistic regression model to identify the role that determinants of adaptive capacity play in shaping smallholders’ perceived self-efficacy and adaptation intent. Our study provides further evidence that self-efficacy beliefs are a strong, positive predictor of adaptation intent. Our study suggests that human capital, information and technology, material resources and infrastructure, wealth and financial capital, and institutions and entitlements all play an important role in shaping smallholder perceived self-efficacy, while state-society dependencies may reduce smallholder perceived self-efficacy. In addition, our study suggests that perceiving climate change risks and impacts do not necessarily lead to an intention to adapt. Overall, our findings highlight the importance of incorporating both the objective determinants of smallholders’ adaptive capacity and their subjective perceptions of these objective determinants into future climate change adaptation programs and policies in order to facilitate adaptive actions. Identifying factors that cause individuals to have a low estimation of their adaptive ability may allow planned adaptation interventions to address these perceived limitations and encourage adaptive behavior.


Adaptive capacity Climate change Climate perception China Smallholder farmers 



This research was partially funded by Northwest Agriculture and Forestry University (NWAFU) through the 111 project of Chinese Ministry of Education (No. B12007). The authors are grateful to Drs. Pute Wu, Delan Zhu, Youke Wang, Xining Zhao, Xiping Liu, Yubao Wang from NWAFU for their support for this research. The authors also thank Chunyan Qi, Mengying Sun, and several other NWAFU undergraduate and graduate students for their assistance during fieldwork. Finally, we would like to thank our anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments, which significantly strengthened the paper.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 18 kb)
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Supplementary material 2 (DOCX 21 kb)
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Supplementary material 3 (DOCX 22 kb)


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© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Environmental StudiesState University of New York College of Environmental Science and ForestrySyracuseUSA
  2. 2.Department of Forestry and Natural ResourcesPurdue UniversityWest LafayetteUSA

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