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

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Abstract

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.

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Notes

  1. http://environment.harvard.edu/news/huce-headlines/costa-rica-takes-carbon-neutrality-challenge accessed on 17 January 2012.

  2. Costa Rica together with Spain and the USA have launched the Adaptation Partnership at the Petersberg Ministerial Climate Dialogue hosted by the governments of Germany and Mexico in May 2010 (http://www.lamoncloa.gob.es/IDIOMAS/9/Gobierno/News/2011/08122011_DurbanSummit.htm).

  3. NAMAs were first introduced in the Bali Action Plan (UNFCCC 2007) as a method by which developing countries could access financial or technical assistance from developed countries to facilitate the implementation of domestic mitigation actions.

  4. In total 1500 interviews were attempted, but some were incomplete or interrupted, resulting in 1473 complete interviews.

  5. Other authors have measured knowledge of climate change slightly differently due to specific research interests. For example, Sundblad and colleagues (2009) measured knowledge with true/false scales but also added items measuring confidence in one’s own information on climate change given their interest in analyzing the influence of knowledge and confidence on general concern of climate change among different social groups. In their work, these authors measured knowledge using questions with a relatively greater technical content (e.g. including specific thresholds of climate change impacts) given their interest to discriminate among social groups with scientific technical expertise and others. Similarly, in their questionnaires Bostrom and colleagues (1994) focused mainly on knowledge of climate change and measured it using mental model interviews which are more easily applicable to a much smaller sample (n = 100) than ours, allowing in-depth exploration of differences between lay people’s and experts’ understanding of climate change.

  6. According to NISC (2002) 62% of women economically active and inactive above 12 years old in the country are dedicated to household care.

  7. With the exception of “I” all policies are actually pursued in Costa Rica. Policy “C” is only in San Jose, policies “D” and “E” refer to the use of oil tax revenues for PES.

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Acknowledgements

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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Vignola, R., Klinsky, S., Tam, J. et al. Public perception, knowledge and policy support for mitigation and adaption to Climate Change in Costa Rica: Comparisons with North American and European studies. Mitig Adapt Strateg Glob Change 18, 303–323 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11027-012-9364-8

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