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CR 26:43-59 (2004)  -  doi:10.3354/cr026043

Public perceptions of unusually warm weather in the UK: impacts, responses and adaptations

J. P. Palutikof*, M. D. Agnew, M. R. Hoar

Climatic Research Unit, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich NR4 7TJ, UK

ABSTRACT: Evidence of socio-economic sensitivity to climate variability is accumulating and is largely based on modelling studies. This paper examines the impacts of climate extremes (unusually hot summers and unusually warm winters) from the perspective of the perception of the general public. Postal surveys were conducted for 2 regions in the UK: (1) southern England and (2) central and southern Scotland. Information was gathered regarding attitudes to warm climate anomalies, the perceived risks and benefits of recent extremes, and the perceived potential risks and benefits of such anomalies becoming more common in the future. The impacts of climate extremes were assessed with regard to (1) the individual¹s 'everyday life' and (2) the national 'good'. The responses indicate a high level of awareness of the impacts of climate extremes and deep concerns about global warming tempered by an appreciation that there is potential for both positive and negative outcomes. For several issues, the perception of respondents from Scotland and England differed significantly. In particular, more English than Scottish residents judge unusually warm summers as having a severe negative impact on agriculture and air quality than do Scottish residents. We suggest that regional differences in climate could at least in part explain the apparent geographic differences in response. The results indicate both short-term and long-term adaptive and behavioural responses to a season of exceptional warmth and a willingness to implement further lifestyle adjustments for a hypothetical future in which such events become more common.

KEY WORDS: Climate extremes · Perception survey · Impacts · Adaptation

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