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Climate change or variable weather: rethinking Danish homeowners’ perceptions of floods and climate

Abstract

Climate scenarios predict that an effect of climate change will be more areas at risk of extensive flooding. This article builds on a qualitative case study of homeowners in the flood-prone area of Lolland in Denmark and uses the theories of Tim Ingold and Bruno Latour to rethink the way we understand homeowners’ perception of climate change and local flood risk. Ingold argues that those perceptions are shaped by people’s experiences with and connections to their local landscape. People experience the local variability of the weather, and not global climate change as presented in statistical data and models. This influences the way they understand the future risks of climate change. Concurrently, with the theory of Latour, we can understand how those experiences with the local landscape are mediated by the existing water-managing technologies such as pumps and dikes. These technologies prevent the residents in Lolland from experiencing many of the changes that are already occurring and, at the same time, give them a feeling of being able to control the water to the extent that it is prevented from flooding their homes, both now and in the future. The combination of these two theoretical approaches gives new insights as to why people living in flood-prone areas are not very concerned about climate change.

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Acknowledgments

The research was funded by Norden Top-level Research Initiative sub-programme ‘Effect Studies and Adaptation to Climate Change’ through the Nordic Centre of Excellence for Strategic Adaptation Research (NORD-STAR), project no 36780.

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Correspondence to Nina Baron.

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Editor: Wolfgang Cramer.

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Baron, N., Petersen, L.K. Climate change or variable weather: rethinking Danish homeowners’ perceptions of floods and climate. Reg Environ Change 15, 1145–1155 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10113-014-0701-1

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Keywords

  • Climate change adaptation
  • Flood risk
  • Homeowners
  • Tim Ingold
  • Landscape
  • Actor-network theory