State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

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Managing Hazard Risk and Weather Extremes at AGU

Researchers from the Earth Institute’s Center for Research on Environmental Decisions (CRED) will present posters at the 2012 American Geophysical Union Conference in San Francisco this week. Katherine Thompson, psychology doctoral candidate, will present a poster entitled “The Psychology of Hazard Risk Perception”; and Dr. Diana Reckien, CRED visiting research scholar, will present a poster entitled “Realities of Weather Extremes on Daily Life in Urban India—How Quantified Impacts Infer Sensible Adaptation Options.” Please check them out if you are attending AGU!


Realities of Weather Extremes on Daily Life in Urban India – How Quantified Impacts Infer Sensible Adaptation Options

Diana Reckien, visiting research scholar

Mo., December 3rd; 1:40-pm-6pm; Poster Hall, Moscone South, Lower Level; Paper number: GC13C-1107

The impacts of progressing climate change are alarming, some consequences now unavoidable and adaptation options increasingly needful. This poses challenges for emerging megacities in the global South, which barely manage current weather conditions. This paper introduces a new form of structured climate impact assessment that incorporates over 370 personal interviews to develop semi-quantitative impact indicators and a ranking of useful adaptation options through a representative, multi-stakeholder assessment. It is shown that climate change would reduce the quality of life in many parts of the city and adaptation options are needed to at least maintain the current level of quality of life in Indian cities. Investments in the water supply, sewage and drainage infrastructure and management are no-regret adaptation options under both increasing heat waves and strong rains and would service all urban localities investigated, particularly the urban poor.


The Psychology of Hazard Risk Perception

Katherine Thompson, doctoral student

Thursday, Dec. 6, 1:40-6pm, Moscone South, Poster Halls A-C NH43A

A critical step in preparing for natural hazards is understanding the risk: What is the hazard, its likelihood and range of impacts, and what are the vulnerabilities of the community? Any hazard forecast naturally includes a degree of uncertainty, and often these uncertainties are expressed in terms of probabilities. Cognitive psychologists have enumerated many ways in which people neglect, distort, misjudge or misuse probability information, and even the most ubiquitous of probabilistic communications—weather forecasts—are systematically misinterpreted. It is therefore important that scientists and practitioners understand the common psychological barriers to accurate probability perception before they attempt to communicate hazard risks to the public. This paper discusses several common, systematic distortions in probability perception and use, including: the influence of personal experience on use of statistical information; temporal discounting and construal level theory; the effect of instrumentality on risk perception; and the impact of “false alarms” or “near misses.” We conclude with practical recommendations for ways that risk communications may best be presented to avoid (or, in some cases, to capitalize on) these typical psychological hurdles to the understanding of risk.

Banner featuring a collage of extreme heat images.

Recent record-breaking heat waves have affected communities across the world. The Extreme Heat Workshop will bring together researchers and practitioners to advance the state of knowledge, identify community needs, and develop a framework for evaluating risks with a focus on climate justice. Register by June 15

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