A new paper in WIREs Climate Change by Jennifer Fresque-Baxter and Derek Armitage outlines the contribution of place identity theory as a lens through which to systematically examine how person–place bonds influence climate change adaptation. This much needed typology is necessary to frame further empirical work on the subjective attributes of climate change adaptation.

Place identity and climate change adaptation: a synthesis and framework for understanding

Jennifer A. Fresque-Baxter, Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

Derek Armitage, Department of Environment and Resource Studies, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada

Abstract

Most research on climate change adaptation emphasizes the material and objective assets that build the capacity to adapt. Nonmaterial or ‘subjective’ attributes of adaptation (e.g. identity, beliefs, and values) are more difficult to quantify, and research in this area is less developed. Further effort is required to develop and test frameworks that facilitate a systematic examination of the subjective attributes of climate change adaptation. This article outlines the contribution of place identity theory as a lens through which to systematically examine how person–place bonds influence climate change adaptation. We provide a working typology of three interconnected place identity approaches to help elucidate this relationship. Each has strengths and weaknesses, depending on the theoretical and practical contexts within which they are used. The ‘cognitive-behavioral approach’ has important utility in addressing how place identity shapes climate change perceptions and behavior; it can, however, be limited due to cognitive complexity and lack of richness from quantitative methodologies. The ‘health and well-being approach’ addresses the often underemphasized health and well-being impacts from climate change on place and identity, though the subjective nature of health must be considered in such an approach. The ‘collective action approach’ offers important insight into using place identity as a mechanism to foster collective opportunities for climate change adaptation. With such an approach, however, care must be taken to ensure inclusive representation of subgroup identities. We conclude by reflecting on how place identity theory can foster improved understanding in a critically important and emerging area of climate change adaptation research.

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Image of: Slave River Delta

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