Credit: Michele Barnes
Original Published Date: 
Monday, August 10, 2020

Full article issued by The Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies.

ARC-supported research into how communities are adapting to the devastating impact of climate change on their homes and livelihoods shows that connections with friends and family are key, and that people are more empowered to respond to climate change when they see others doing the same.

The researchers analysed how an island community in Papua New Guinea of around 700 people coped with the impact of encroaching sea-levels and dwindling fish stocks, and examined the actions that households took to deal with these impacts.

Lead author Dr Michele Barnes, an ARC Discovery Early Career Researcher Award (DECRA) recipient from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University, says that policies and programs that seek to reduce vulnerability to climate change often focus on the building up material assets or creating infrastructure. But the research found that a broader set of factors can play an important part in the actions communities end up taking.

“Our research found that people's actions were related to their social networks—the ways that they connected to other people within their community," says Dr Barnes. “To cope with the impacts of climate change, existing practices or behaviours can be tweaked—this is adaptation. However, in some cases this won’t be enough, and people need to enact more fundamental changes—transformation.”

The team found the households more socially connected to others taking action were more likely to do the same. This could be because of 'like-attracts-like' effects, where households with particular mindsets are more socially connected to similar households, or it could be that households were influencing each other’s actions. Or it could be a combination of both effects.

The researchers also found household connections with the marine environment played an important role in determining the responses to climate impacts.

Photo credit: 

Credit: Dr Michele Barnes.