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Matthew Cotton and Emma Stevens

Abstract

The concept of adaptation is becoming part of mainstream public discourse on climate change. Yet the diversity, complexity, and novelty of the adaptation concept itself leads to interpretive flexibility, differing public understanding of (and engagement with) adaptation strategies, and hence differentiated policy responses. The boundary work of communicative practices and public understanding of the adaptation concept therefore requires empirical analysis in different cases and contexts. This study employs Q-methodology (a combined quantitative–qualitative social research method) to reveal the typologies of perspectives that emerge around the adaptation concept among a diverse group of citizen-stakeholders in the United Kingdom. Four such typologies are identified under the labels 1) top-down climate action, 2) collective action on climate change, 3) optimistic, values-focused adaptation, and 4) adaptation skepticism. The division between these perspectives reveals a perceived “responsibility gap” between the governmental–institutional and/or individual–community levels. Across the emergent discourses we find a consensual call for a multisector, multiscalar, and multistakeholder-led approach that posits adaptation as a contemporary, intragenerational problem, with a strong emphasis upon managing extreme weather events, and not as an abstract future problem. By attending to these public discourses in climate policy, this presents a potential means to lessen such a responsibility gap.

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Wesley Tourangeau, Kate Sherren, Carlisle Kent, and Bertrum H. MacDonald

Abstract

Producer organizations representing Canada’s farm and livestock sectors are powerful change agents and advocates for their industries, particularly during challenging times such as climate- or weather-related hardships. Such organizations have a complex role: engaging with policy-makers, as well as their memberships and the public, to pursue the interests of their specific communities. This paper includes an examination of how farm producer organizations communicate about climate and weather to these various audiences, and the specific needs and recommendations they advance. Of particular interest are commodities related to pasture-based grazing, which is underrepresented in the climate adaptation literature. A collection of 95 publicly available documents is analyzed, representing a snapshot of climate- and weather-related public and policy engagement of Canadian and Albertan farm and livestock producer organizations from 2010 to 2015. Qualitative coding by scale, commodity, and audience revealed three significant patterns within this exploratory study. First, while national “umbrella” organizations speak climate to government, Alberta-based livestock/forage organizations speak to their members with a focus on weather. Second, while the two national umbrella organizations examined are politically divergent, they appear to be united on the topic of climate change. Third, common ground was also found between climate and weather discourses around on-farm management, specifically rotational grazing. These three patterns reveal a disjointed dialogue within the Canadian farm and livestock sectors on topics of climate adaptation and mitigation, as well as opportunities for future cooperation, and the need for further research on farm organization beliefs and their capacity to create/manage climate knowledge.

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Xi Hu, Xiujuan Zhang, and Jiuchang Wei

Abstract

Hazard warning is vital in disaster management. The rapid development of social media allows warning producers and receivers to exchange warning messages effectively and sufficiently. This study investigates the factors that influence public attention to natural hazard warning information on social media. Drawing from the protective action decision model and framing theory, this study classifies antecedents into three groups, namely, hazard information, publisher’s/reader’s characteristics, and frame setting. To test the hypotheses empirically, we select Sina Weibo, the leading social network in China, as the research context. From this platform, 3452 warning messages issued by authorities in the target area are collected. We code each message based on its attributes that are related to our study for linear regression analyses. Results show that all the factors related to publisher’s/reader’s characteristics exert significant effects on public attention. However, the affected range indicated by a warning message and the formality of the message’s language are not significantly related to public attention to the message.

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Joshua J. Hatzis, Jennifer Koch, and Harold E. Brooks

Abstract

In the hazards literature, a near-miss is defined as an event that had a nontrivial probability of causing loss of life or property but did not due to chance. Frequent near-misses can desensitize the public to tornado risk and reduce responses to warnings. Violent tornadoes rarely hit densely populated areas, but when they do they can cause substantial loss of life. It is unknown how frequently violent tornadoes narrowly miss a populated area. To address this question, this study looks at the spatial distribution of possible exposures of people to violent tornadoes in the United States. We collected and replicated tornado footprints for all reported U.S. violent tornadoes between 1995 and 2016, across a uniform circular grid, with a radius of 40 km and a resolution of 0.5 km, surrounding the centroid of the original footprint. We then estimated the number of people exposed to each tornado footprint using proportional allocation. We found that violent tornadoes tended to touch down in less populated areas with only 33.1% potentially impacting 5000 persons or more. Hits and near-misses were most common in the Southern Plains and Southeast United States with the highest risk in central Oklahoma and northern Alabama. Knowledge about the location of frequent near-misses can help emergency managers and risk communicators target communities that might be more vulnerable, due to an underestimation of tornado risk, for educational campaigns. By increasing educational efforts in these high-risk areas, it might be possible to improve local knowledge and reduce casualties when violent tornadoes do hit.

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Jennifer R. Fownes and Shorna B. Allred

Abstract

The general public’s perceptions of climate change may be shaped by local climate impacts through the mechanism of experiential processing. Although climate change is a long-term global trend, individuals personally experience it as weather from moment to moment. This study assesses how New York State adults’ overall perceptions of their personal experiences with the effects of climate change and extreme weather (surveyed in early 2014) are related to recent weather conditions. This research is unique in that it examines multiple types of weather: temperature and precipitation, over 1 day or 1 week, quantified both as relative and nonrelative measures. Respondents’ perceptions that they had personally experienced climate change or extreme weather significantly increased with warmer relative (percentage of normal) minimum temperatures on the day of the study. Maximum temperatures and total precipitation levels were not significant predictors of perceptions of personal experience, either on the day of the study or over the preceding week. Experiential processing had a smaller effect on perceptions than motivated reasoning, the influence of preexisting ideas. Respondents who believed that climate change was happening agreed more that they had personally experienced it or extreme weather, and this effect increased for individuals who thought that climate change was anthropogenic, as opposed to naturally caused. Of the sociodemographic factors assessed here, political party, gender, and region were significant predictors, while age and education were not.

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Matthew J. Widlansky, H. Annamalai, Stephen B. Gingerich, Curt D. Storlazzi, John J. Marra, Kevin I. Hodges, Barry Choy, and Akio Kitoh

Abstract

Potential changing climate threats in the tropical and subtropical North Pacific Ocean were assessed, using coupled ocean–atmosphere and atmosphere-only general circulation models, to explore their response to projected increasing greenhouse gas emissions. Tropical cyclone occurrence, described by frequency and intensity, near islands housing major U.S. defense installations was the primary focus. Four island regions—Guam and Kwajalein Atoll in the tropical northwestern Pacific, Okinawa in the subtropical northwestern Pacific, and Oahu in the tropical north-central Pacific—were considered, as they provide unique climate and geographical characteristics that either enhance or reduce the tropical cyclone risk. Guam experiences the most frequent and severe tropical cyclones, which often originate as weak systems close to the equator near Kwajalein and sometimes track far enough north to affect Okinawa, whereas intense storms are the least frequent around Oahu. From assessments of models that simulate well the tropical Pacific climate, it was determined that, with a projected warming climate, the number of tropical cyclones is likely to decrease for Guam and Kwajalein but remain about the same near Okinawa and Oahu; however, the maximum intensity of the strongest storms may increase in most regions. The likelihood of fewer but stronger storms will necessitate new localized assessments of the risk and vulnerabilities to tropical cyclones in the North Pacific.

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Lauren M. Andersen, Abie N. Bonevac, Laura K. Thompson, Kara E. Dempsey, Elizabeth D. Shay, and Margaret M. Sugg

Abstract

In 2016, an exceptional drought and subsequent wildfires devastated the southeastern United States. Western North Carolina (WNC), a socioeconomically growing region that is dependent on revenue from tourism and agriculture, was particularly impacted by the events. The Southeast is not typically considered to be water vulnerable, and few studies have explored drought and wildfire in WNC. However, the region is projected to experience elevated water vulnerability as a result of rapid population growth and increased climatic variability. The recent events highlight the need for better understanding of water-related experiences and perceptions to inform proactive policies for risk mitigation in WNC. To evaluate stakeholder experiences and perceptions relating to the events in 2016, the authors conducted telephone interviews with key informants from a variety of sectors in two counties (Buncombe and Watauga) and then subjected their responses to content analysis. Informants frequently discussed themes relating to the “Natural Resources and Environment” code group, with responses revealing concerns about the health effects of smoke exposure, as well as water quantity. Other common topics of discussion for informants include water management, public awareness, and disaster severity. The prevalence of other themes varied by county, demonstrating the importance of local context. Surprisingly, informants rarely discussed risk in the context of increasing population and development, suggesting that current policies may inadequately address future risks. Stakeholders across all sectors placed substantial emphasis on information dissemination both within agencies and to the public. With a better understanding of key-informant experiences and perceptions, policymakers will be better equipped to address policy shortcomings as well as to prepare for future hazards.

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Scott E. Kalafatis, Julie C. Libarkin, Kyle Powys Whyte, and Chris Caldwell

Abstract

Engagements between climate scientists and communities feature challenges but are also essential for successfully preparing for climate change. This is particularly true for indigenous peoples who are proactively responding to the threats that climate change poses by engaging in collaborations with climate decision-support organizations. The potential for risks and rewards associated with engagements like these makes developing tools for comprehensively, consistently, and equitably assessing cross-cultural climate collaborations a critical challenge. This paper describes a multicultural team’s efforts to develop a survey that can assess collaborations between Native American tribes in the United States and climate science organizations. In the process, the developing survey’s oscillations between acting as a boundary object and acting as an epistemic object in the project revealed common ground as well as existing differences across the cultural, disciplinary, and professional divides involved. Delphi expert elicitation was shown to be an effective approach for negotiating a cross-cultural research effort like this one because of its ability to establish consensus while delineating gaps. This experience highlights that assessing cross-cultural climate collaborations requires that both researchers and the tools that they use have the capacity to identify both common ground and distinctions between climate scientists and the communities with which they collaborate.

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Emmanuel Nyadzi, E. Saskia Werners, Robbert Biesbroek, Phi Hoang Long, Wietse Franssen, and Fulco Ludwig

Abstract

Farmers in sub-Saharan Africa face many difficulties when making farming decisions due to unexpected changes in weather and climate. Access to hydroclimatic information can potentially assist farmers to adapt. This study explores the extent to which seasonal climate forecasts can meet hydroclimatic information needs of rice farmers in northern Ghana. First, 62 rice farmers across 12 communities were interviewed about their information needs. Results showed that importance of hydroclimatic information depends on the frequency of use and farming type (rain-fed, irrigated, or both). Generally, farmers perceived rainfall distribution, dam water level, and temperature as very important information, followed by total rainfall amount and onset ranked as important. These findings informed our skills assessment of rainfall (Prcp), minimum temperature (Tmin), and maximum temperature (Tmax) from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF-S4) and at lead times of 0 to 2 months. Forecast bias, correlation, and skills for all variables vary with season and location but are generally unsystematic and relatively constant with forecast lead time. Making it possible to meet farmers’ needs at their most preferred lead time of 1 month before the farming season. ECMWF-S4 exhibited skill in Prcp, Tmin, and Tmax in northern Ghana except for a few grid cells in MAM for Prcp and SON for Tmin and Tmax. Tmin and Tmax forecasts were more skillful than Prcp. We conclude that the participatory coproduction approach used in this study provides better insight for understanding demand-driven climate information services and that the ECMWF-S4 seasonal forecast system has the potential to provide actionable hydroclimatic information that may support farmers’ decisions.

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Elspeth Oppermann, Yolande Strengers, Cecily Maller, Lauren Rickards, and Matt Brearley

Abstract

One of climate change’s most certain impacts is increasingly frequent and extreme heat. Heat management and climate adaptation policies generally utilize temperature and humidity thresholds to identify what constitute “extreme” conditions. In the workplace, such thresholds can be used to trigger reductions in work intensity and/or duration. In regions that routinely exceed proposed thresholds, however, this approach can be deeply problematic and raises critical questions about how frequently exposed populations already manage and mitigate the effects of extreme heat. Drawing on social practice theories, this paper repositions everyday engagements with extreme heat in terms of practices of work. It finds that bodies absorb and produce heat through practices, challenging the view that extreme heat is an “external” risk to which bodies are “exposed”. This theoretical starting point also challenges the utility of threshold-based adaptation strategies by demonstrating how heat is actively coproduced by living, performing bodies in weather. This argument is exemplified through a case study of outdoor, manual workers in Australia’s monsoon tropics, where work practices were adapted to reduce thermal load. More specifically, we find that workers “weather” work and “work” the weather to enable work to be done in extreme conditions. Our analysis of everyday heat adaptation draws attention to the generative capacities of bodies and unsettles two established separations: 1) that between climatic exposure and sensitivity, calling for a more embodied, experiential, and performed perspective and 2) that between climatic impacts and (mal)adaptation, calling for an understanding of climate adaptation, as located in everyday practices, in the management of bodies in weather.

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