Coastal Homeowner Adaptation to a Changing Climate

In order to maximize the potential for successful implementation and adoption of the research findings by stakeholders in coastal communities, this study links an interdisciplinary research team operating at the intersection of engineering and political science with the implementing partner, IBHS.  IBHS brings not only pre-existing relationships to local stakeholders for this research, but can serve as a critical gateway to others throughout the coastal US ripe to become ND‐GAIN stakeholders in the future.

The investigators, ND-GAIN affiliates, Debra Javeline and Tracy Kijewski-Correa are launching a multi-site survey that tests propositions in places that vary by historical exposure to major hurricanes, experience with the effects of sea level rise, median income, partisanship, and other factors. The current research includes a pilot study in New Hanover, North Carolina, that will then be leveraged for external support for the larger project. New Hanover has one of the highest exposure rates to hurricanes, experiencing 46 hurricanes in the last 150 years, 12 of which were major. If any coastal community in the United States should be aware of increasing risks from climate-driven hazards and sea level rise, it is New Hanover, so if homeowners are unaware or unwilling to adapt accordingly, we can reasonably assume that other communities are probably as unprepared or less so. Importantly, New Hanover is a diverse community economically (median income $49,835) and politically (51.7% voted Republican in the 2012 election), allowing us to test preliminary hypotheses about socioeconomic and political variables in adaptation decisions. The project has primary tasks, described briefly below:

Case Study Development:  The project launched with the development of a detailed case study that aggregated existing data sources to provide sociopolitical and natural hazard risk context. As part of this process, community resilience were quantified for the pilot study region using two composite indicators at fine scales suitable for future downscaling efforts of ND-GAIN. The case study carefully documents the time period leading up to the administration of the survey to identify potentially biasing factors.

Survey Design & Implimentation: The Coastal Homeowner Survey was developed in collaboration with IBHS and will include batteries of questions identified as key resilience indicators. It will develop new questions to measure the homeowner’s asset condition and value, hazard exposure, structural vulnerability, residential risk reduction, residential risk reduction awareness, community risk reduction awareness, efficacy judgments, multi-criteria decision making, information channels, social networks, political attitudes and behavior, and demographics. The survey will be administered using a randomized address-based target sample of 6,000 for a likely achieved sample of approximately 1,000 residents who self-identify as the primary decision makers in their homes. 

Data Analysis & Profile Development: The resulting survey data will be weighted to Census estimates in each region, minimally by age, education, gender, and race/ethnicity. The team will then test hypotheses about which conditions increase the probability that vulnerable homeowners will translate risk information into adaptation actions and the role of incentives in this process. As the survey questions will measure key variables most influencing resilience to climate hazards, responses from individual households can be directly mapped to community resilience indicators.

Stakeholder Engagement: These analyses will then enable the development of homeowner profiles in collaboration with the communications team at IBHS. The profiles will outline which conditions most influence adaptation actions for various homeowner demographics, including the optimal communication channels and incentive structures. These will then be presented to the local stakeholder, the North Carolina Joint Underwriting Authority and IBHS leadership through structured activities that identify how these homeowner profiles and resilience indicators can be leveraged to improve uptake of their adaptation programming.

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