“On an individual basis, people care about things in their back garden and they also care about global icons of climate change…cultural heritage and natural heritage are two really important things that tie people to place and where the impacts of climate change are really going to be felt,” said Neil Adger, professor of environmental economics at the University of East Anglia and the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research.
Speaking at the Wilson Center, Adger explained that if policymakers don’t think seriously about the cultural dimensions of climate change adaptation they risk implementing measures that significantly, and negatively, impact people’s sense of community and identity.
More detailed information is needed to identify what people care about, how people construct perceptions of climate risk, and the best ways to engage people locally.
This is not easy, however. “I think the difficulty of looking at the cultural impacts of climate change is that they are very place specific,” Adger said.
But there is a significant payoff from the investment. “The cultural embedded-ness of our relationship with climate is also potentially a huge motivation for action and for change,” he said. This motivation can extend beyond adaptation to actually encourage people to decarbonize the economy, to mitigate the potential for negative climate change impacts in the first place, and to act as “citizens rather than as consumers.”