Study finds coastal officials eschew climate planning until they see damage

November 30, 2016 by Matt Shipman, North Carolina State University
Credit: North Carolina National Guard

When is the best time to start planning for an emergency? Is it better to get a head start, or wait until a problem manifests? A recent study finds that local officials in coastal North Carolina are unlikely to plan for the effects of climate change until they perceive a threat to their specific communities.

"If public officials are supposed to be planning for the future, waiting until a threat is apparent really limits the amount of lead time that public agencies have to prepare," says Brian Bulla, lead author of a paper on the study.

"We found that many public officials need to see damage before they're willing to act," says Bulla, an assistant professor at Appalachian State University who did the study while a Ph.D. student at NC State.

The study was designed to see what characteristics made public officials more likely to embrace the idea of "adaptive decision making" in regard to . Adaptive decision making refers to efforts to put policies in place that account for the anticipated impact of climate change, such as modifying infrastructure.

For the study, researchers surveyed 88 local government officials across all 20 of North Carolina's coastal counties. They found the variable that most closely correlated with willingness to pursue adaptive action was the extent to which an official perceived climate change as a threat to his or her community. Political ideology showed a significantly less robust correlation, and the extent to which officials professed knowledge about climate change was not correlated at all.

"The finding highlights the need to use information about the likelihood of specific climate impacts in communities when communicating with local officials," says NC State's Elizabeth Craig, who co-authored the paper.

Explore further: US climate-adaptation plans long on ideas, short on details, priorities

More information: Brian R. Bulla et al. Climate change and adaptive decision making: Responses from North Carolina coastal officials, Ocean & Coastal Management (2017). DOI: 10.1016/j.ocecoaman.2016.10.017

Related Stories

Study looks at climate change concern in adolescents

May 3, 2016

A North Carolina State University study of middle schoolers found that concern about climate change was linked to whether students had a personal belief in human-caused climate change and how often they discussed the topic ...

Recommended for you

What happened before the Big Bang?

March 26, 2019

A team of scientists has proposed a powerful new test for inflation, the theory that the universe dramatically expanded in size in a fleeting fraction of a second right after the Big Bang. Their goal is to give insight into ...

Probiotic bacteria evolve inside mice's GI tracts

March 26, 2019

Probiotics—which are living bacteria taken to promote digestive health—can evolve once inside the body and have the potential to become less effective and sometimes even harmful, according to a new study from Washington ...

Cellular microRNA detection with miRacles

March 26, 2019

MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are short noncoding regulatory RNAs that can repress gene expression post-transcriptionally and are therefore increasingly used as biomarkers of disease. Detecting miRNAs can be arduous and expensive as ...

3 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (3) Dec 08, 2016
"We found that many public officials need to see damage before they're willing to act,"

That's the kind of officials we don't need. What are people doing all those studies for if the knowledge gained is just going to be ignored by politicians?
The short-sightedness of uneducated people just wants to make you despair.
gkam
1 / 5 (3) Dec 08, 2016
Isn't it a red state?

Conservative politicians?

Politicians assume they define the world for us, even in their ignorance. It is called hubris, and is the official policy of the Trumpistas.
Estevan57
3 / 5 (2) Dec 08, 2016
Gkam, read before posting. " Political ideology showed a significantly less robust correlation, and the extent to which officials professed knowledge about climate change was not correlated at all."

Read more at: http://phys.org/n...html#jCp

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.