Doctoral Research Abstract
Anthropogenic climate change (ACC) is arguably the greatest environmental, infrastructural, and social challenge of the 21st century. Within the United States of America, recent climate-induced events have underlined the need for improved community-level resilience, and for acknowledgement of future risk. Will’s PhD research focuses on individual receptivity to and awareness of ACC within two vulnerable US regions: Southeastern Texas and the Dakotas.
Climate change poses specific hazards to the personal health and safety of individuals within these communities, as well as to the long-term resilience of the communities themselves:
- Southeastern Texas faces climate risk in the form of sea level rise and storm surge, and the recent hurricane season was one of the most impactful in US history. In this study site, Will is particularly interested in whether Hurricane Harvey has influenced the perspectives of some who may have previously denied the existence of ACC.
- The Dakotas are increasingly affected by drought, and several counties experienced record droughts in 2017. The Missouri River, which serves as the primary water source for over 18 million people, is also threatened by ruptures of the recently-constructed and highly controversial Keystone XL and Dakota Access oil pipelines.
Through field work in April – September 2018, Will will perform a series of open-ended, semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders and members of the public in these communities. His project will implement the Energy Cultures Framework (pioneered by Prof. Janet Stephenson, University of Otago) to identify key drivers for belief and lifestyle choices, and identify potential stimuli for behavioural adaptation.
Within the Coastal Texas Study Site, Will aims to perform interviews and apply the Energy Cultures Framework in three cities affected by Hurricane Harvey: Houston, Galveston, and Corpus Christi/Rockport. In the Dakotas Study Site, he aims to conceptualise ACC-related perceptions held among members of the Standing Rock and Pine Ridge Sioux Tribes, and compare these perceptions with those held among visitors to the Mount Rushmore National Monument (who are expected to come from a range of geographic areas in the US). Will expects to observe substantial differences between the broader study sites, as well as between communities within study sites. If such differences are observed, this would underline the need for community-specific outreach and resilience-based planning procedures.
As a concurrent objective of his research, Will aims to evaluate whether a significant difference exists between participants’ perceptions of the proximal threats that can affect their everyday lives with their views on more global, abstract ACC-related phenomena (i.e. the contribution of the aviation industry to ACC). Within this space, he aims to evaluate sentiments toward the environmental impact of globalisation, and the responsibility global industries should bear for mitigation of their respective ACC contributions.