UNU-EHS | Risk perception of climate change and natural hazards in global mountain regions: A critical review

Mountains provide essential ecosystem services for surrounding regions and particularly for adjacent lowlands. Impacts of warmer climate affect these services and have negative consequences on biodiversity and supply of water.

Mountains are highly sensitive to climate change. Their elevated areas provide essential ecosystem services both for the surrounding mountainous regions and particularly for adjacent lowlands. Impacts of a warmer climate affect these services and have negative consequences on the supply of water, on biodiversity and on protection from natural hazards.

Mountain social-ecological systems are affected by these changes, which also influence communities’ risk perception and responses to changing climate conditions. Therefore, to understand individual and societal responses to climate change in mountain areas, aspects and drivers of risk perception need to be scrutinised. A new article by Stefan Schneiderbauer, Paola Fontanella Pisa, Jess L. Delves et al., presents the findings of a literature review of recent English language publications on risk perception in connection to climate change and related natural hazards in mountain regions worldwide.

Studies were selected from recorded entries in JSTOR, Science Direct, Scopus and Web of Science covering the period 2000–2019 and analysed in two steps (structured exploratory analysis, n=249 and in-depth analysis, n= 72) with respect to the studies’ research question, methodology, geographical scope and risk perception drivers.

The review reveals that socio demographic factors, like gender, age and personal experiences, have a crucial impact on individual risk perception. Some of the less tangible but nevertheless decisive factors are important in mountain regions such as place attachment and socio-cultural practices. In conclusion, there is however little information in the literature which addresses the specific situation of risk perception in mountain areas and its influence on communities’ responses to environmental changes. Further, a strong gap concerning the integration of indigenous knowledge in risk perception research was observed. Many studies overlook or oversimplify local knowledge and the cultural dimensions of risk perception. Based on these results, the paper identifies several gaps in research and knowledge which may influence the design of climate risk management strategies as well as on their successful implementation.

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Source: United Nations University, Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS), 07.04.2021