17 May 2016
Relief funds can sometimes remove the incentive to buy insurance or take steps to reduce risks
Relief funds can sometimes remove the incentive to buy insurance or take steps to reduce risks

Coastal property owners recognise flooding risk, but there is little public willingness to adapt

University of Queensland researchers have found that more needs to be done to make coastal communities aware of the expected impacts of climate change.

UQ researcher Dr Morena Mills and colleagues surveyed 420 people living in coastal areas prone to sea level rise and temporary inundation in south-east Queensland, highlighting several long-term challenges for planning authorities.

“Coastal property owners recognise flooding risk, but there is little public willingness to adapt,” Dr Mills said.

“Only half of those previously affected by extreme events adapted, and often adaptations undertaken have limited impact in preventing future damages.

“This is likely a result of people considering flooding to be a rare event and of limited impact, potentially anticipating government will cover future flooding costs.”

Government-provided disaster relief could remove incentive for undertaking real and significant changes in preparation for increasing flooding events, she said.

“Relief funds can sometimes remove the incentive to buy insurance or take steps to reduce risks.”

Co-author UQ’s Dr Justine Bell-James said the USA’s national flood insurance scheme ensured that federal assistance was restricted and only available under special conditions.

The United States’ scheme ensured that disaster relief was conditional upon the person obtaining flood insurance for the future, Dr Bell-James said

“This creates a community expectation that disaster relief will be a one-off occurrence.”

 According to Dr Mills, it is critical for the public to be informed about climate change risks so they understand and support climate adaption policies.

“With maps of flood zones increasingly accessible, the public does not always embrace them due to, for example, fears of how this information will affect house prices,” she said.

“And because climate change has been politicised, it makes it increasingly difficult for local communities and the different levels of government to reach a consensus when making planning decisions.”

The research, ‘Perceived and projected flood risk and adaption in coastal south-east Queensland, Australia’, is published in Climate Change.


Contacts:

Dr Morena Mills, Email morena.mills@uq.edu.au, T +61 7 336 52527

Dr Justine Bell-James, T +61 7 336 56588, Email j.bell-james@law.uq.edu.au

Media: GCI Communications, Email gcicomms@uq.edu.au, T +61 7 3443 3110

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