Climatic Change

, Volume 136, Issue 3–4, pp 523–537 | Cite as

Perceived and projected flood risk and adaptation in coastal Southeast Queensland, Australia

  • Morena MillsEmail author
  • Konar Mutafoglu
  • Vanessa M. Adams
  • Carla Archibald
  • Justine Bell
  • Javier X. Leon


Evidence on the impacts of climate change is rapidly increasing but there is little change to the speed of climate adaptation by governments and individuals. There are multiple barriers to climate adaptation, including among others: the lack of the public understanding of risks, lack of leadership and availability of resources to adapt. In this study, we assess to what extent coastal residents understand their properties’ flood risk, and what predicts their risk perception and adaptation behaviour. We surveyed 420 individuals in South East Queensland projected to be within the permanent or temporary flood zone in 2100 based on combined sea-level rise and storm surge scenarios. We assessed the correlations between the projected (i.e. objective) and perceived risk of inundation, adaptation behaviour, and the individual characteristics considered to influence risk perception and adaptation. While we found a correlation between perceived and some objective flood risks, perceived risk only partially reflected objective risk. Other factors that influenced risk perception were previous experience of flooding events, belief in climate change, risk aversion, age and gender. Factors driving risk perception varied with the type (permanent, temporary) and frequency of flooding event (1 in 20 or 1 in 100 years). Previous experience with extreme event impacts and belief in climate change influenced all future perceived risks. However, even after being impacted by an extreme event, adaptation was moderate (58 %). Personal as well as environmental factors influence the likelihood of adaptation. The moderate adaptation response within our case study is likely a result of most respondents considering large flooding events to be rare and of limited impact, and anticipating future government aid to overcome flooding damage costs. Existing attitudes towards risk, which influence the extent of proactive adaptation, should be of concern to governments who will likely be facing these costs at increasing frequencies.


Risk Aversion Risk Perception Extreme Event House Price Flood Risk 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



All authors thank all those that participated in this study. MM, KM, JXL and VMA acknowledge support from the Australian Research Council. The authors are grateful for funding from ARC SuperScience grants #FS100100024 and #FS110200005 and funding from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions. Many thanks also to John Cook, Kelly Fielding, Hugh Possingham and Lana Friesen from the University of Queensland and Tiffany Morrison from JCU for discussion and reviewing drafts of the survey questionnaire and Abdollah Asadzadeh Jarihani and Scott Atkinson for helping collect the elevation data for the objective risk maps.

Supplementary material

10584_2016_1644_MOESM1_ESM.docx (33 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 33 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Morena Mills
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Konar Mutafoglu
    • 2
    • 3
  • Vanessa M. Adams
    • 1
  • Carla Archibald
    • 1
  • Justine Bell
    • 4
  • Javier X. Leon
    • 2
    • 5
  1. 1.Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Science, School of Biological SciencesUniversity of QueenslandSt LuciaAustralia
  2. 2.Global Change InstituteThe University of QueenslandSt LuciaAustralia
  3. 3.Institute for European Environmental PolicyBrusselsBelgium
  4. 4.School of LawThe University of QueenslandSt LuciaAustralia
  5. 5.School of Science and EngineeringUniversity of the Sunshine CoastMaroochydore DCAustralia

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