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Photo: Ivo Steimanis

The Shadow of the Future: The prospect of climate change on human behavior

Contact person: Ivo Steimanis and Björn Vollan

Climate change, migration of human populations, and environmental degradation are interrelated in a complex coupled human and natural system. While people have historically abandoned places with harsh conditions, the scale of these flows is expected to increase dramatically as a result of climate change. Environmental migrants are individuals forced to migrate from their home region due to sudden or long-term changes to their local environment compromising their well-being or secure livelihood.

There is consent among researchers that climate change will result in increasing migration and even the need to resettle entire populations. Many environmental scientists believe that the sea level will rise as a consequence of global warming and the Solomon Islands will be heavily affected by such an occurrence.

The “Shadow of the future” project examine, how people are likely to change their behavior in light of future climate changes, and build scenarios about potential responses, but also about their exposure to risk. The research project will identify the human reaction to severe impacts of climate change by combining an original comparative research design and the use of economic experiments, survey methods and modelling techniques. With this combination we aim to analyze how risk perception, preferences and behavior of people change with the prospect of being severely affected by climate change and whether and how the preferences translate into choices for short- and medium adaption strategies. Thus we examine the behavioral motives of potential climate refugees.

Our comparative design will sample people who have been affected by different degrees of sea level rise on the Solomon Islands. We sample people from low lying atolls, which are at the maximum 2m above the sea level and from higher lying islands, as well as people who already migrated from the atolls.

The research is carried out by an interdisciplinary team and doctoral candidate Ivo Steimanis (Uni Marburg).

External collaborators:

Adam Douglas Henry

Rebecca Hofmann

Andreas Egelund Christensen

Boats on Beach
Photo: Lukas Kampenhuber

The Shadow of the Past: Studying the impact of natural disasters on human behavior

Contact person: Maximilian Burger and Björn Vollan

The Philippines is among the countries most vulnerable to climate change, as it is most frequently hit by typhoons or earthquakes causing an estimated $1.6 billion in losses each year. Catastrophic events can dramatically alter existing social and economic relationships. Our main hypothesis is that catastrophic events not only alter social and economic relationships but also the fundamental ways in which people behave. Ever since Charles Darwin it has been argued that adaptation to the environment might favour the persistence of certain traits or behaviours that help the survival of the group.

An emerging body of literature has examined the impact of natural disasters on preferences and behaviour. Yet, these studies have produced very different results regarding whether people become more or less cooperative, possibly because of differnt contexts or methodological problems. One potential methodological problem with most studies is the lack of a baseline experiment to control for initial heterogeneities among different villages. Our study aims to fill this gap and provide evidence on the formation of preferences due to one past catastrophic event. 

The aim of this project is to collect data about solidarity and social preferences, and to identify the impact of typhoon Haiyan (locally known as Yolanda) who crossed the Philippines in 2013 on social behavior of coastal inhabitants of Panay island (Western Visayas, Region VI). Building on our baseleine experiments with 800 participants in 2012 we aim to implement two follow-up studies in the third and fifth year after the typhoon in order to assess the impact of the damages induced by typhoon Yolanda. More specifically, we explore the causal effects of being hit by Yolanda building on a unique panel data set for a range of outcome variables (especially experimentally measured risk taking and solidarity transfers from the unaffected to the affected people, as well as survey items on social networks and trust). Furthermore, we will analyse the impact of recovery aid and how this affects social network formation and preferences. We will also test whether existing social capital (reflected in voluntary organization membership, collective action, trust and social relationships) prior to the catastrophic event helped people, as individuals as well as communities, deal with the disaster.

External collaborators:

Andreas Landmann

Bernd Hayo

Funded by: