Perceived and projected flood risk and adaptation in coastal Southeast Queensland, Australia

Morena Mills*, Konar Mutafoglu, Vanessa M. Adams, Carla Archibald, Justine Bell, Javier X. Leon

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


Evidence on the impacts of climate change is rapidly increasing but there is little change to the speed of climate adaptation by governments and individuals. There are multiple barriers to climate adaptation, including among others: the lack of the public understanding of risks, lack of leadership and availability of resources to adapt. In this study, we assess to what extent coastal residents understand their properties’ flood risk, and what predicts their risk perception and adaptation behaviour. We surveyed 420 individuals in South East Queensland projected to be within the permanent or temporary flood zone in 2100 based on combined sea-level rise and storm surge scenarios. We assessed the correlations between the projected (i.e. objective) and perceived risk of inundation, adaptation behaviour, and the individual characteristics considered to influence risk perception and adaptation. While we found a correlation between perceived and some objective flood risks, perceived risk only partially reflected objective risk. Other factors that influenced risk perception were previous experience of flooding events, belief in climate change, risk aversion, age and gender. Factors driving risk perception varied with the type (permanent, temporary) and frequency of flooding event (1 in 20 or 1 in 100 years). Previous experience with extreme event impacts and belief in climate change influenced all future perceived risks. However, even after being impacted by an extreme event, adaptation was moderate (58 %). Personal as well as environmental factors influence the likelihood of adaptation. The moderate adaptation response within our case study is likely a result of most respondents considering large flooding events to be rare and of limited impact, and anticipating future government aid to overcome flooding damage costs. Existing attitudes towards risk, which influence the extent of proactive adaptation, should be of concern to governments who will likely be facing these costs at increasing frequencies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)523-537
Number of pages15
JournalClimatic Change
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2016
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'Perceived and projected flood risk and adaptation in coastal Southeast Queensland, Australia'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this