Environment Systems and Decisions

, Volume 34, Issue 4, pp 591–599 | Cite as

Public perceptions of local flood risk and the role of climate change

  • Wändi Bruine de Bruin
  • Gabrielle Wong-Parodi
  • M. Granger Morgan


The IPCC reports that climate change will pose increased risks of heatwaves and flooding. Although survey-based studies have examined links between public perceptions of hot weather and climate change beliefs, relatively little is known about people’s perceptions of changes in flood risks, the extent to which climate change is perceived to contribute to changes in flood risks, or how such perceptions vary by political affiliation. We discuss findings from a survey of long-time residents of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, a region that has experienced regular flooding. Our participants perceived local flood risks as having increased and expected further increase in the future; expected higher future flood risks if they believed more in the contribution of climate change; interpreted projections of future increases in flooding as evidence for climate change; and perceived similar increases in flood risks independent of their political affiliation despite disagreeing about climate change. Overall, these findings suggest that communications about climate change adaptation will be more effective if they focus more on protection against local flood risks, especially when targeting audiences of potential climate sceptics.


Flood risk perceptions Climate change beliefs Public perception surveys 



This work was supported by the center for Climate and Energy Decision Making (SES-0949710), through a cooperative agreement between the National Science Foundation and Carnegie Mellon University. We thank Carmen Lefevre, Kelly Klima, and Andrea Taylor for their comments and insights.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wändi Bruine de Bruin
    • 1
    • 2
  • Gabrielle Wong-Parodi
    • 2
  • M. Granger Morgan
    • 2
  1. 1.Centre for Decision ResearchLeeds University Business SchoolLeedsUK
  2. 2.Department of Engineering and Public PolicyCarnegie Mellon UniversityPittsburghUSA

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