Knowledge, Social Space and Climate Change: Cultural Differences in Handling Flood Risks in European Coastal Areas

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 09:15
Location: Hörsaal 4A KS (Neues Institutsgebäude (NIG))
Oral Presentation
Thorsten HEIMANN, Leibniz Institute for Research on Society and Space, Germany
Ways of dealing with climate change risks to create adequate resilience strategies for cities and regions differ depending on socio-spatial and cultural backgrounds. Actors who want to implement solutions have to consider differences in the knowledge of agents involved. Even similar climate scenarios from the natural sciences are treated differently. Thus to identify suitable coping strategies for cities and regions, cultural characteristics need to be taken into account. Consequently we have to ask: Which role do differences in knowledge and culture play in handling climate change risks?

To answer these questions I explore the shared knowledge of agents from spatial planning and coast protection from European coastal areas. In a quantitative survey agents assess possible risks and chances as well as adequate measures to cope with them. I investigate how their approvals are interconnected with culture defining variables like shared values, worldviews and socio-spatial identities. Furthermore, I consider how they inform and communicate about climate change related issues. More than 1.000 agents from European coastal municipalities in Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands and Poland gave their opinion.

In my presentation I discuss theoretical and empirical results with a special focus on flood related risks. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and others promote that water levels are rising in certain areas. Different coping strategies emerge in global and local discourse, e.g. protection of land (e.g. by dykes and other technical measures), accommodation (e.g. modification of infrastructure like implementing houses on pilings) or planned retreat (e.g. withdrawal of activities). Since different options exist, agents’ strategy preferences do also differ. To describe and explain these differences, I use a theoretical framework build upon younger German communicative constructivism as well as attempts from American environmental sociology and social psychology.