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Study: Addressing the climate change adaptation puzzle: a psychological science perspective

15 December 2020 | By: Alexander Götmann, Research Assistant Leadership

A team of researchers from EBS Universität (Myriam N. Bechtoldt & Alexander Götmann) and Frankfurt School of Finance & Management (Ulf Moslener & W. Pieter Pauw) shed light on the micro (i.e. individual), meso (i.e. group) and macro (i.e. society) level factors that can contribute to higher adaptation engagement.

Unlike climate change mitigation, adaptation to climate change does not as much suffer from the fundamental global public good problem – at least at the country-level – since it is in the self-interest of each individual country to adapt. However, the observed level of adaptation is insufficient from an economic perspective. We address this puzzle by adding a psychological perspective to explain actors’ behaviour. Based on existing meta-analytic evidence we discuss micro- (i.e. individual-), meso- (i.e. group-) and macro- (i.e. society-) level factors that may contribute to more engagement in adaptation and provide recommendations on how to address them. The results show that the strongest predictors of individual adaptation behaviour are people’s beliefs whether adaptive actions will be effective in protecting them from climate-related hazards (outcome expectancy), the degree to which people believe that they are able to engage in adaptive actions (self-efficacy) and their emotional reaction to climate change. Equally strong on a meso-level are behavioural norms and cultural aspects on a macro-level. We recommend that decision-makers create more transparency about the cause–effect chain between adaptation activity and desired adaptation effects to strengthen individuals’ sense of efficacy. Furthermore, inducing reflection on social norms through communicative interventions may contribute to motivate adaptive actions by individuals and organisations.

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