Avoiding or mitigating flooding: Bottom-up drivers of urban resilience to climate change in the USA

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Global Environmental Change, 2019, 59
Issue Date:
Full metadata record
© 2019 Elsevier Ltd Coastal areas around the world are urbanizing rapidly, despite the threat of sea level rise and intensifying floods. Such development places an increasing number of people and capital at risk, which calls for public flood management as well as household level adaptation measures that reduce social vulnerability to flooding and climate change. This study explores several private adaptation responses to flood risk, that are driven by various behavioral triggers. We conduct a survey among households in hazard-prone areas in eight coastal states in the USA, of which, some have recently experienced major flooding. While numerous empirical studies have investigated household-level flood damage mitigation, little attention has been given to examining the decision to retreat from flood zones. We examine what behavioral motives drive the choices for flood damage mitigation and relocation separately among property buyers and sellers. Hence, we focus on the drivers that shape demand for future development in flood-prone cities. We find that households’ choices to retreat from or to avoid flood zones (1) are highly sensitive to information that provokes people's feelings of fear, and (2) rely on hazardous events to trigger a protective action, which ideally would take place well before these events occur. We highlight that major flooding may cause a potential risk of large-scale outmigration and demographic changes in flood-prone areas, putting more low-income households at risk. Therefore, coordinated policies that integrate bottom-up drivers of individual climate adaptation are needed to increase urban resilience to floods.
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