Public perceptions of rainfall change in India

Abstract

People’s perceptions of changes in local weather patterns are an important precursor to proactive adaptation to climate change. In this paper, we consider public perceptions of changes in average rainfall in India, analyzing the relationship between perceptions and the instrumental record. Using data from a national sample survey, we find that local instrumental records of precipitation are a strong predictor of perceived declines in rainfall. Perceptions of decreasing rainfall were also associated with perceptions of changes in extreme weather events, such as decreasing frequency of floods and severe storms, increasing frequency of droughts, and decreasing predictability of the monsoon. Higher social vulnerability—including low perceived adaptive capacity and greater food and livelihood dependence on local weather—was also associated with perceptions of decreasing rainfall. While both urban and rural respondents were likely to perceive local changes in precipitation, we show that rural respondents in general were more sensitive to actual changes in precipitation. Individual perceptions of changes in local climate may play an important role in shaping vulnerability to global climate change, adaptive behavior, and support for adaptation and mitigation policies. Awareness of local climate change is therefore particularly important in regions where much of the population is highly exposed and sensitive to the impacts of climate change.

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Acknowledgments

Funding for survey data collection was provided by the Shakti Sustainable Energy Foundation and the Rice Family Foundation.

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Correspondence to Peter D. Howe.

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Howe, P.D., Thaker, J. & Leiserowitz, A. Public perceptions of rainfall change in India. Climatic Change 127, 211–225 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-014-1245-6

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Keywords

  • Adaptive Capacity
  • Local Climate
  • Extreme Weather Event
  • Instrumental Record
  • Rainfall Change