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Risk perception and adaptive responses to climate change and climatic variability in northeastern St. Vincent

Abstract

Social and cognitive psychology has shown that people’s intuition and emotion may exert great influence on their decision-making. However, within the context of climate change, there is paucity of literature in the developing countries including the Caribbean as many of these studies have been focused mostly in developed countries. This paper provides some ground-breaking work on human behaviour as it relates to perception and response to risks associated with climate change and climatic variability in the rural communities of Sandy Bay, Owia and Fancy, three remote communities in northeastern St. Vincent which are also home to the indigenous Caribs. A mixed methods approach which include a total of 311 questionnaires, interviews and focus groups discussion was undertaken. The study looked at how households perceived their own risk in terms of their location and how it influences their behaviour. It further examines households’ knowledge and perception of the climate change phenomenon and their responses to climate-related events. The results show that while majority of respondents did not feel they were located in risky areas, a noteworthy percentage did. Statistical significant relationships were observed when the data was compared across communities, sex and ownership of homes. For example, females and persons living in family homes generally felt more at risk. The results also show that respondents knew little of climate change and how it may exacerbate climate-related events such as drought and hurricane. Still, they were conscious of their local context and reported a change in the climate of which increased temperature was a strong predictor. An investigation of responses or the decision to respond to some of the impacts that they have experienced on account of climate change and climatic variability however led to the development of different types of perceptions which include religious, ill informed, experienced-based and knowledge-based perceptions. It is argued here that these forms of perception may result in non-adaptive, proactive or reactive adaptive behaviour. The research findings lead to the emergence of a number of recommendations which include public awareness, education and training on the risk and impacts of climate change and climate-related events on both the national and local level, improving public access to vital climate-related information and other resources and incorporating risk perceptions, knowledge, attitudes and livelihood strategies in the development of their policy, strategies and programmes to mitigate the impact of climate-related events. It also calls for the expansion of future research on risk perception within Caribbean communities.

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  1. Eastern Caribbean Dollars

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Correspondence to Rose-Ann Smith.

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Smith, RA. Risk perception and adaptive responses to climate change and climatic variability in northeastern St. Vincent. J Environ Stud Sci 8, 73–85 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13412-017-0456-3

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s13412-017-0456-3

Keywords

  • Risk perception
  • Climate change
  • Climatic variability
  • Adaptation
  • St. Vincent & the Grenadines