Transatlantic Solutions to Sea Level Rise Adaptation:
Moving Beyond the Threat

October 30-31, 2013; Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia.

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Psychological Perspectives on Public Perception of Sea Level Rise

Poornima Madhavan
Department of Psychology, Old Dominion University

Sea level rise and associated flooding in Norfolk, Virginia has recently attracted local and national media attention. Several organizations have begun to respond to the challenges of local flooding associated with sea level rise as an aspect of climate change. However, the local public’s reaction to this attention to climate change and sea level rise remains largely unknown. Specifically, how concerned are local citizens? Are they poised to act to adapt to or to mitigate the effects of climate change? Are they willing to change their behaviors? Support for climate change policies depends on understanding how people process information, perceive risks, and make decisions. Social scientists, with their attention to factors that drive human behavioral responses, must play a pivotal role in communicating issues related to climate change to the public in order to bridge the gap between empirical scientific data and public understanding of the need to adopt strategies to promote environmental resiliency. This talk will present a social science driven process model of communicating climate change and sea level rise that aims to promote public engagement in political decision making and broaden support for environmental resiliency policies. To measure public engagement and attention, the talk will focus largely on local flooding in Norfolk, an issue of significant community concern, as a lens though which to examine public response to the broader impacts of climate change and sea level rise. Local findings will then be utilized to generate a social marketing model incorporating human dimensions and scientific knowledge for the use of other communities in southeastern Virginia and beyond that are interested in engaging the public to address climate change and sea level rise.