Risky business: Engaging the public on sea level rise and inundation

Jul 27, 2016 | Journal Articles

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. Download the article here.