Climate change: citizens more likely to take action than governments

Climate change: citizens more likely to take action than governments

Individuals act, while governments plan. Here is the conclusion of a meta-analysis which compiles the results of more than 1,450 research studies on the power of action of the main actors able to act to adapt to climate change.

Where are we in the progress made globally in terms of adaptation to climate change? This is the question asked by an international group of researchers from 20 institutions in 12 countries, who have just published a vast meta-analysis in the journal Nature Climate Change. The researchers examined 1,472 scientific studies on human adaptation to climate change. The data comes from the Global Adaptation Mapping Initiative (GAMI), a program that aims to bring together and synthesize the literature on adaptation to climate change. The data collected was analyzed according to the types of actors behind the adaptation measures: individuals and households, governments (at local and national level), international or multinational governance institutions and private sector companies.

Active citizens and planning governments

The conclusion is unequivocal: on average, across the world, individuals and households are making much more effort than governments to adapt to climate change. The actions in question concern, for example, the planting of crops more resistant to extreme weather conditions, moving away from areas more directly affected by storms and floods or even changing outdoor working hours in favor of cooler periods. of the day. “Individuals primarily focus on changing what they can control: their own behaviors“, specifies Elphin Tom Joe, co-author of the research, in a press release. The gap in action between governments and citizens, however, appears to be significantly more marked in rural areas than in urban areas.

“An even heavier burden” in low-income countries

The authors of this work also note that, even in regions where governments are deploying adaptation measures, their actions focus mainly on planning and financing, while individuals are responsible for their implementation. This observation is also true in high-income countries. “In the United States, for example, the government can offer advice on protecting homes from flooding, but individuals are responsible for paying for these improvements. In countries with more limited resources, the burden is even greater“, underlines Christine Kirchhoff, co-author of the study and associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Pennsylvania State University (United States).

According to the study, national governments are the second type of actor most likely to adapt, particularly in Africa, Asia, Central and South America, and small island states. In Europe, national and local governments are mentioned with equal frequency (19% each). On the other hand, individuals and households are cited much more often than all government actors, especially in Asia and Africa. “We are seeing the effects of climate change around the world, and many of these effects are being felt disproportionately by communities or individuals who are already overburdened.“, deplores Professor Kirchhoff.

The fact that individuals and households are the main actors in implementing real adaptation is consistent with previous research findings (…) This trend is further reinforced by our finding that individuals and households are primarily engaged in behavioral/cultural responses“, conclude the researchers.