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Awareness of Climate Change Threats Doesn't Motivate People to Act, Study Finds

Disaster preparedness efforts need to take into account that homeowners in vulnerable areas don’t take action even when the risks are clear.
October 25, 2019, 1pm PDT | Camille Fink
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Mexico City, Florida
Terry Kelly

"The conventional wisdom is that if people knew the threat they faced [from climate change] and believed measures to protect their home would work (and had the money to act) they’d do the logical thing and try to keep their family safe," writes Kate Yoder. But a study published in the journal Climatic Change reports that knowledge about climate change does not result in homeowners taking action to prepare for threats to their homes.

The researchers explored various reasons behind the lack of action by residents in New Hanover County in North Carolina, a coastal area hit hard by hurricanes, reports Yoder. "People do things all the time that they know are risky, like smoking cigarettes and driving cars. And when it comes to hurricanes, insurance and assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency might have lulled people into complacency, [Tracy] Kijewski-Correa said."

Various strategies can be used to counter the inaction, including the fostering of social norms, where residents model preparedness for others, and government mandates. Promoting the financial benefits of preparedness can also work, notes Yoder. "'Think about how many times [real-estate agents] show off the kitchen and the brand-new bathrooms,' Kijewski-Correa said. 'How many times do they the show off the roof that will actually keep your family alive in a hurricane?'"

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Published on Monday, October 14, 2019 in Grist
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