Cultural Worldviews Affect Sea Level Rise Risk Perceptions

by 4C

We are pleased to announce two new resources by Mason 4C researchers Karen Akerlof, Kathy Rowan and their colleagues. In a newly published paper in Environmental Science & Policy they explore public perceptions of sea level rise risks and the use of deliberation to facilitate community-based decision-making in Maryland.

Abstract: To examine whether U.S. public opinion may become as sharply polarized on adaptation responses as it has been on mitigation policies, we surveyed a sample of urban coastal residents in Maryland (n = 378). We then tested the impact of a community deliberative event (n = 40) with small-group sea level rise discussions as a depolarization strategy. Cultural worldviews which contribute to politically polarized beliefs about climate were predictive of perceptions of sea level rise risk. Living close to flooding hazards also significantly predicted respondents' perceptions of household or neighborhood risks, but not of risks to the entire county. The event significantly increased topic knowledge among all participants and, among those with a worldview predisposing them to lower risk perceptions, significantly increased problem identification and concern about impacts. These results suggest small-group deliberation focused on local problem-solving may be an effective tool for reducing the polarizing effects of cultural worldviews on decision-making.
Karen has also analyzed newspaper reporting on sea level rise (SLR) in the U.S. between 2001-2015, finding significantly lower rates of SLR reporting than climate change reporting, although it has increased in the past few years.