Title                            Targeting mental models of climate change risk to facilitate climate action

Lead PI                      Maryse Chappin, Utrecht University, The Netherlands

Partner PI                  Stefan Liersch, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), Germany
                                   Gisela Böhm, University of Bergen, Norway

Funding Agencies    BMBF, Germany
                                   NWO, NL
                                   RCN, Norway



Our team of social and natural scientists and a wide network of local stakeholders in West and East Africa join forces to co-develop pathways to effectively facilitate climate action, to achieve the long-term objectives of the Paris Agreement, contribute to SDG 13 (among others), and inform the nationally determined contributions (NDCs) strategies. The overarching objective of the project is to identify adaptation and mitigation strategies by analyzing the gap between stakeholder’s perceptions of change and risk and projected impacts of human activities under changing climatic conditions in East Africa (Lake Victoria) and West Africa (Lagos). This is a promising avenue to induce climate action as divergence in perceptions limits effective approaches for sustainable development. Moreover, it is crucial  to study developing regions as they are particularly susceptible to the impact of climate change due to its far-reaching impact on livelihoods, health, safety, and economic and political instability. These regions have been selected due to their high vulnerability to climate change impacts and the fact that they span large populations.

We will develop (bio-)physical models of the climate challenges of Lagos and Lake Victoria. We will use a novel mental model elicitation tool to investigate perceptions of climate change and identify possibilities for converging understanding across decision-makers. In addition, this project will assess climate change risk perception among communities, how risk perceptions are shaped by socio-cultural influences and how they can contribute to facilitating appropriate responses to climate change. As a climate service, scenario simulations considering climate change and human interventions into the environment will be conducted with (bio-)physical models to test and evaluate stakeholder’s perceptions and possible action.

To meet the information needs of the stakeholders, we will develop the scenario components in close collaboration with the stakeholders. Discrepancies across different stakeholder groups and gaps in understanding of natural science-based climate change risks will be investigated to identify avenues for facilitating convergence. We will pursue convergence of mental models across decision-makers using multiple approaches, including field experiments and a deliberation exercise. Importantly, we investigate how convergent understanding of climate change risks can aid collective decision-making and action. Through iterations of observing, measuring, modelling, field interventions and integration of findings, the partners will extend the knowledge base to better understand the social-cognitive barriers to climate change adaptation and mitigation action in the two study areas. The research will be geared toward developing evidence-based recommendations for local adaptation policies and behavioral strategies for promoting climate action.