Climate Disasters: New Baylor Study Explores How People Respond

From Baylor University News

Study looks into the interaction of knowledge, risk perceptions and action as it relates to climate events

New results from a Baylor University study show that different behaviors and strategies lead some families to cope better and emerge stronger after a weather-related event.

Dr. Sara Alexander, an applied social anthropologist at Baylor who conducts much of her research in Central America, studied different households in several coastal communities in Belize. While climate change has been an emerging topic of interest to the world community, little scientific data exists on exactly how people respond to different climate-related “shocks” and events such as more intense hurricanes and prolonged drought.

Using a livelihood security approach, Alexander and her team identified vulnerable households in these communities and examined how they adapted and coped with major climate events and shocks such as droughts, hurricanes and floods. The Baylor researchers also developed tools to measure each household’s long-term resilience, an area that has not been extensively researched, and identified specific behaviors and strategies that allowed some families to “weather the storm” better than others.

The results indicate:

• Sixty-two percent of vulnerable households made the assertion that chronic weather-related threats such as floods and prolonged drought are a greater concern than “one-off” disasters like hurricanes.

• Perception about climate change and weather patterns played a key role in determining whether a household prepares adequately for a harsh weather event. For instance, 57 percent of households believed that storms today are more intense than they were five to 10 years ago, the household is more likely to prepare when weather forecasters predict threatening weather.

• Vulnerable and more secure households differ in coping strategies when dealing with weather-related events. Forty-nine percent of vulnerable households turn to their faith, 43 percent to their family, and 36 percent turned to their friends for emotional support. Only 19 percent turned to financially-based responses and only 8 percent made attempts to secure credit to gain resources to make repairs rebuild. Households that have the highest levels of security are more likely to use their savings or sell their assets to engage in a financially based response by repairing and rebuilding, many times finding emotional support through this work.

• A critical ingredient for reducing vulnerability and enhancing resilience is empowerment of marginalized groups and the associated access to resources.

• Although the capacity of households to adapt to harsh weather is a function of perception of risk and access to resources, resilience of communities depends on the ability of people to think and act collectively.

“The results suggest that both vulnerable and secure households respond to weather-related events, but they do so in different ways,” said Alexander, associate professor and chair of the department of anthropology, forensic science and archaeology at Baylor’s College of Arts and Sciences.

The results will be published in the journal Climatic Change and Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change.

Alexander said over the last 150 years, data shows surface temperatures have increased and the associated impacts on biological and physical systems have become more evident. Some of the more notable changes that have gradually occurred are sea level rise, shifts in climatic zones, changes in precipitation patterns and increases in frequency and magnitude of extreme weather events like droughts, floods and storms.

Alexander said she has always maintained that by definition, more vulnerable households are not able to respond as effectively to a natural disaster as those households whose livelihoods are more secure, that is, their capacity for response is influenced by their weakened ability to guard against risk.

Alexander and her team developed a resilience-measuring index for human responses that examined certain long-term security indicators, including economic stability, human health conditions, adult education levels, social connectedness, environmental health, and food and nutrition security. The researchers then tracked those indicators as different weather-related events naturally occurred.

The project was funded through a $235,000 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Also collaborating on the project as a co-investigator is Dr. Susan Stonich, professor of anthropology and environmental studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

28 thoughts on “Climate Disasters: New Baylor Study Explores How People Respond

  1. A whole lot has to do with the education-training of the person responding … the more they know the more skeptical they are.
    Such is the beauty of scientific hoaxes … like DDT.

  2. I would take any attempt to extrapolate these findings to other communities with a large grain of salt. At least some of the findings are heavily influenced by the culture in which the survey’s took place, and are probably not relevant in other cultures.

  3. I case anyone is not fooled…….
    ….Climate science has so many spinoffs it just might never die
    “the household is more likely to prepare when weather forecasters predict threatening weather.”
    What if the stupid weather service gets it wrong?
    Of course, in their “behaviors and strategies” they don’t mention a weather service telling them to prepare for an above average winter…
    …only to have record breaking cold and snow

  4. “Alexander said over the last 150 years, data shows surface temperatures have increased and the associated impacts on biological and physical systems have become more evident. Some of the more notable changes that have gradually occurred are sea level rise, shifts in climatic zones, changes in precipitation patterns and increases in frequency and magnitude of extreme weather events like droughts, floods and storms.
    Ok, most of us believe that the average temperature has gone up a bit (.7 degrees?) But that is mostly at night in the winter in the North. Exactly what does that have to do with Belieze? And the sea level has risen maybe an inch or so. (Gasp what a tragedy! But where is the data that shows the rest. Ask Roger Pelkie. I believe he would confirm that there is no statistically significant change in extreme weather events of any kind.
    So basically she is studying the affect of a non-effect.

  5. Where in the world do these people come from? What do they hope to learn and what teachable moments will follow? Was this effort funded by stimulus money? What a waste.

  6. “little scientific data exists on exactly how people respond to different climate-related “shocks” and events such as more intense hurricanes and prolonged drought”
    So then it has been proved that there are more intense hurricanes? Could someone please send me the proof? I must have missed that memo.
    It drives me nuts when statements are made-up just because they sound good and “prove” the author’s point.

  7. The project was funded through a $235,000 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
    Holy Warming – I am for sure in the wrong business!!!!!

  8. …57 percent of households believed that storms today are more intense than they were five to 10 years ago…
    Grampa always says that the weather was worse when HE was a kid, so I guess he’s right after all… 😉
    …empowerment of marginalized groups…
    Of course, every one of these “studies” has to include THAT line.
    Nothing to see here.

  9. Mother Gaia will eventually let loose that pesky planetary husk we call the Moon.
    Once Mr Moon goes bye bye into its first step into interstellar space, the leaving might wreck us into a gravitational chock that’ll destroy us all!!!
    And to think that event is taking place in just a few million years!
    But if we could research it some more, we might end up knowing some more, and we might change it from happening. (We only accept cash.) :°

  10. It’s so sad that Science, the handmaiden of usefulness, has now degenerated into the morass of mediocrity that defines well-funded but useless ramblings!
    “Stupid is, as stupid does” once said a very clever person. But why, oh why, do they need to be fed tax dollars to make their point?
    The “negative” effects of climate change are, yet, but projections as to what may happen many years from now so why, oh why, are they being served up as current consequences?
    Has Post-normal Science really moved on to modifying time-shifting cause and effect to the extent that Ursus Martinimus are happy to Photoshop themselves off the ice-floe?
    I love the works of David Gemmel, Raymond E Feist and G R R Martin but I put my pennies on the table for them ‘cos I’m paying tribute to their genius of portraying fantasy as non peer-reviewed fantasy.
    As for fiction masquerading as fact, bolstered by faux statistics and propped up with public funding that plead for recognition I have only a reflexive response.
    Hold the Mayo, please.

  11. Never trust an anthropologist , especially a social anthropologist . I know – I minored in anthropology in college .

  12. “Perception about climate change and weather patterns played a key role in determining whether a household prepares adequately for a harsh weather event.”
    Unless the climate change is for cold, ice and snow as in UK. In this case, the wrong and deeply entrenched perceptions about the climate made citizens and councils in the UK decidedly unprepared!!
    As an aside, it was pointed out to me by a Nigerian many years ago that specialists on western societies call themselves sociologists in North America and Europe but they call themselves anthropologists when dealing extinct primitives and third world people – I guess this is still true, at least at Baylor.

  13. Using a livelihood security approach, Alexander and her team identified vulnerable households in these communities and examined how they adapted and coped with major climate events and shocks such as droughts, hurricanes and floods. The Baylor researchers also developed tools to measure each household’s long-term resilience, an area that has not been extensively researched, and identified specific behaviors and strategies that allowed some families to “weather the storm” better than others.

    Hmmm let’s see, poor people who are “not secure” are less likely to sell their non-expectant property of take out loans on they non-existent credit to rebuild, and are more likely to depend on friends family and faith to get through a major disaster, than people who make a good living for the local and are financially secure.
    What an earth shaking conclusion!
    It will be very interesting to see how they measured “security” and the metrics they used, and how the disaster response mechanisms they identified in a undeveloped country are supposed to translate to a major metropolitan area in the major industrialized countries.
    This sounds like a study that finds people get wet if they stand out in the rain.
    Larry

  14. Well they coulc go to any hurricane, flood, tornado ravage part of Texas and found out the same things from Americans. People are people all around the world, mostly the same hopes and dreams. A big waste of tax money, they could have wrote that paper in a weekend after a disaster.

  15. Empowering marginalized groups and climate change an emerging topic of interest. That is what I got out of it. Belize would be a good place to compare the rich and the poor.
    I wonder about the time of the study while they tracked long term resilience and indicators as different weather-related events naturally occurred in Belize.

  16. What I find odd, though, is that when I search for “Climatic Change and Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change” I get nothing but blogs referring to it. It seems not to exist (at least on the Interweb).

  17. Watermelon alert!
    “A critical ingredient for reducing vulnerability and enhancing resilience is empowerment of marginalized groups and the associated access to resources.
    … resilience of communities depends on the ability of people to think and act collectively.”
    Comrades, we have always been at war with climate change.
    [Or is that, “Climate change has always been a way of war…. ” ? Robt]

  18. latitude says:
    ….Climate science has so many spinoffs it just might never die
    ——————————————————————–
    do you oppose the scientific study of climate?
    I fear that skepticism could morph into a religious movement as the most extreme part of the AGW-movement already has. Let’s look at the data without prejudice and be the ones to give an honest assessment of what is truly going on. I am worried as I detect some people on here are starting to prejudge research coming from the AGW camp. Let’s stay analytical.

  19. “The results suggest that both vulnerable and secure households respond to weather-related events, but they do so in different ways,” said Alexander, associate professor and chair of the department of anthropology, forensic science and archaeology at Baylor’s College of Arts and Sciences.
    Why is it that the ‘results’ of most sociological studies read like statements of the blindingly obvious?

  20. Message in doublespeak transl
    Poor people can’t cope with weather and a large unmentioned list of problems. They need resources (other people’s money) to “empower” them. Conclusions of all sociologist (anthropologist for the elitist wing that takes on third world folks issues) studies read like a precis of Das Kapital. Wow and in TX, too!

  21. ” The Baylor researchers also developed tools to measure each […]”
    Stop the press! Tool-making discovered in a sociologist population!

  22. “• Perception about climate change and weather patterns played a key role in determining whether a household prepares adequately for a harsh weather event.”
    Quality long range forecasts would be far more effective than scaring people with lies about increases in weather extremes.

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