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More effective policy action against climate change would require local governance. (PTI)
More effective policy action against climate change would require local governance. (PTI)

Why perceptions about climate change matter

Perceptions about environmental risks among elite households vary significantly more than perceptions among non-elite households which could affect the response to climate change, suggests new study

From severe heat waves to extreme rainfall—the threats of climate change are becoming more palpable and attracting the attention of policymakers from around the world.

While the increased public focus is a necessary first step, successfully mitigating the risk of climate change will also depend on the support and appropriate collective action from local communities, argue Susmita Dasgupta and others of World Bank in a new research paper.

According to the authors, such collective action will be difficult if local communities do not share the same perceptions of climate change risks. They attempt to shed light on the differences in these perceptions by studying the Indian Sundarbans, a region threatened by several climate change-related risks including the increased intensity and frequency of cyclonic storms.

Specifically, the authors, through a survey of 600 households, explore how the patterns of climate change risk perceptions change by income and education. Perceptions are measured based on individual rankings of perceived changes in general environmental conditions, such as rainfall, temperature and salinity, and livelihood-related conditions, such as timber stocks, livestock, fisheries and soil fertility.

They find that, even within the same localities, perceptions among elite households about climate change vary significantly more than perceptions among non-elite households. Here, elite households refer to those with a higher socioeconomic status based on measures of asset ownership and the education-level of the household head.

Since elites often dominate leadership positions, the authors argue that the disagreement about climate change priorities among elites could undermine their leadership potential and make locally-oriented collective action harder. They conclude that more effective policy action against climate change would require local governance that promotes wider participation from non-elite households in decision-making.

Also read: Co-Location, Socioeconomic Status and Perceptions of Environmental Change in the Indian Sundarbans

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