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Title: An exploration of the relationship between risk experience and risk response : a case study of farmers and climate change in Gloucestershire
Author: Hamilton-Webb, A.
ISNI:       0000 0004 7968 8185
Awarding Body: Coventry University in association with the Royal Agricultural University
Current Institution: Coventry University
Date of Award: 2017
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Within the existing literature, the role of experience of risk on attitudinal and behavioural risk response has been relatively neglected. Climate change represents a unique risk that is characterised by inherent uncertainty, particularly concerning its consequences, which pose threat to human and natural systems internationally. Furthermore, previous research has proven climate change to be a 'psychologically distant' concept that individuals find difficult to imagine, and as a result do not readily engage in efforts to mitigate its risk; through reducing greenhouse gas emissions; or take action to adapt to its potential impacts. Through the recognised need to 'localise' climate change, raise awareness of the threat it poses, and promote concern; it has been postulated by a number of authors that experience of extreme weather events could help bring climate change to the fore. Climate change risk is therefore used as a lens through which to explore the experience-response relationship in this study. The study is based on farmers as a group who are in a unique position compared to other members of society, with regard to the multitude of daily risks already faced. Farmers represent the main group within the agricultural sector on which the task of climate change adaptation and mitigation will fall; a sector that is committed to reducing their emissions in line with national targets. Their position as 'custodians of the countryside' provides rationale for a close exploration of the ways in which the population are responding to climate change risk, and how local context and experiences of risk have shaped that response. In this study, flooding as a local event and experience that is potentially attributable to climate change is the focus. The county of Gloucestershire in South West England is chosen as the study area; a county with a substantial history of flooding. A sequential explanatory mixed methods approach is adopted across two phases of research. The first involves a quantitative postal survey of 200 farmers across Gloucestershire, exploring aspects of flood experience and attitudinal and behavioural response to risk. The data is subject to multivariate analysis to identify key trends. This informs a second phase which incorporates fifteen in-depth qualitative interviews with a sub-sample of farmers who have directly experienced flooding, allowing for explanation of some of the findings that emerged from the first research phase. The research finds that farmers in Gloucestershire are taking on-farm mitigative and adaptive activity but such actions represent unconscious climate change responses, that are instead recognised by participants as simply 'good practice' or a means to maximise profit. Their behaviour is also informed by existing legislation and financial incentives. Thus, their behaviour in this respect is unrelated to their understanding of climate change, and concern over the risk it poses. Furthermore, farmers' experiences of local flooding have not translated into an automatic likelihood of greater response to climate change in ways that other authors claim that it can, due to the way in which individuals appraise their experiences, and subsequently appraise their response options. The data allows for the development of the 'Cognitive Filters of Experience-Response Appraisal' model to conceptualise the key findings, and provide explanation for the gap between experience of risk and attitudinal response, and the attitude-behaviour gap; offering an original contribution to the existing body of literature on farmer behaviour and environmental risk. It is envisioned that the model could be applied to other cultural groups and other forms of risk in the future.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available