Public perception, knowledge and policy support for mitigation and adaption to Climate Change in Costa Rica: Comparisons with North American and European studies

  • R. VignolaEmail author
  • S. Klinsky
  • J. Tam
  • T. McDaniels
Original Article


Over the past 20 years considerable efforts have been invested in exploring how the public understands climate change. However, the bulk of this research has been conducted in Europe and North America and little is known about public perceptions of climate change in developing countries. This article presents the results of the first nationally representative study (n = 1473) of public perceptions of climate change in Costa Rica. In Costa Rica, a large proportion of interviewees (i.e. over 85%) are highly concerned about climate change in general and feel, as noted in European and North American studies, that its impacts are more worrisome for people farthest away (e.g. in the developed countries or among future generations). At the local level, people feel that food (10.5%) and water (16.1%) shortages as well as poverty (11.3%) and heat waves (11.7%) are the most expected impacts of climate change. Analysis of adaptation behaviour responses suggest that individuals have a relatively lower grasp of emergency and prevention disaster plans but are relatively more proactive in preventing hydro-meteorological extremes related to water scarcity or excess. A majority of respondents engage in mitigation behaviours largely for financial or contextual reasons. Finally, support for adaptation and mitigation policy responses is generally high (i.e. above 70% of interviewee supports them) except for the case of internalizing the cost of watershed protection increasing the water tariffs (52.5%). As discussions about mitigation and adaptation become increasingly common within developing countries, questions about public perceptions in that context are more pressing than ever. Work on climate perceptions needs to be carried out in specific countries to better understand which policies are most likely to resonate with public support, and which might be most difficult to implement.


Climate change Public perception Costa Rica Mitigation Adaptation 



The authors wish to thank the Initiative Peace with Nature of the Government of Costa Rica for supporting this research and the Country office of the United Nations Development Program. We also would like to thank Marco Otarola and Sylvia Leon for their support in the initial phases of the survey. The contents of this document are the sole responsibility of the authors and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the organizations involved. This research was supported by a grant from the International Opportunities Fund of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada to the University of British Columbia. The efforts of Tim McDaniels and Raffaele Vignola were supported by the Climate and Energy Decision-Making Center (CEDM) located in the Department of Engineering and Public Policy, through a cooperative agreement between the National Science Foundation (SES-0949710) and Carnegie Mellon University. The CEDM in turn supports researchers in the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability at the University of British Columbia.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. Vignola
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • S. Klinsky
    • 2
    • 4
  • J. Tam
    • 2
  • T. McDaniels
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Climate Change, Ecosystem Services and Land Use Policy Research, Climate Change Program, CATIETurrialbaCosta Rica
  2. 2.Institute for Resources, Environment and SustainabilityUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  3. 3.School of Community and Regional PlanningUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  4. 4.Cambridge Centre for Climate Change Mitigation ResearchUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUnited Kingdom

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