Perspectives on Adaptive Capacity to Climate Change in Hazardous Environments: Insights from Broward County, Florida

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Social Science, Coastlines, Hurricanes/typhoons, Sea level, Communications/decision making, Planning

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Particular social factors can limit or promote adaptive capacity and resilience in hazardous environments. Understanding these factors is essential for developing planning tools for risk reduction and response. In this qualitative study, focus groups are used to learn about homeowners’ experiences with a disturbance event, as well as their perceptions and expectations regarding local climate adaptation. The analysis provides insights about how risk perceptions, insurance practices, and social networks may influence individuals’ willingness and ability to cope with a disaster. Potential social limits to adaptation among participants included inaccurate risk perceptions based on experiences and feelings of helplessness, and a lack of political trust at the state level. Existing social resources that may be more formally leveraged to enhance adaptive capacity include knowledge reserves of long-term residents, strong “bonding capital,” and trust in local, nonelected government employees. The study concludes that social dimensions of adaptation, including individuals’ values, beliefs, and social norms, can have a powerful influence on the effectiveness of local adaptation planning in the face of hazards and global environmental change.

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Weather, Climate, and Society, v. 10, issue 2, p. 361-372