Beliefs about climate change in the aftermath of extreme flooding
When faced with natural disasters, communities respond in diverse ways, with processes that reflect their cultures, needs, and the extent of damage incurred by the community. Because of their potentially recurring nature, floods offer an opportunity for communities to learn from and adapt to these experiences with the goal of increasing resiliency through reflection, modification of former policies, and adoption of new policies. A key component of a community’s ability to learn from disaster is how community members perceive the causes of extreme flood events and whether there is risk of future similar events. Perceptions of causes of flooding, including climate change, may be influenced by experiencing a flood event, along with individual preferences for various policies put in place to help a community recover. Using data collected from two rounds of public surveys (n = 903) across six Colorado communities flooded in 2013, we investigate whether there is variation across causal understanding of flooding, and whether this variation can be linked to differences in proximity of damages experienced (personal property, neighborhood, or community). By analyzing these variables, along with other variables (time since flood, political affiliation, and worldview), this study improves our understanding of the factors that drive our beliefs about potential causes of floods, focusing on climate change. The findings suggest that the extent of damage experienced at the neighborhood and community levels can have a significant effect on the perceptions of climate change held by the public. In turn, these beliefs about climate change are positively associated with perceptions of risks of future flooding.
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