Rodriguez-Cruz and Niles publish in PLoS One on Puerto Rican farmers’ climate change and adaptation perceptions
The first chapter of Luis Alexis Rodríguez-Cruz's dissertation was published in late January in PLoS One. His co-author is his advisor, Meredith T. Niles. The paper looks at Puerto Rican farmers’ climate change and adaptation perception in light of their experience with Hurricane Maria, as it relates to the adoption of new practices.
Understanding how perceptions around motivation, capacity, and climate change’s impacts relate to the adoption of adaptation practices in light of experiences with extreme weather events is important in assessing farmers’ adaptive capacity. However, very little of this work has occurred in islands, which may have different vulnerabilities and capacities for adaptation. Data of surveyed farmers throughout Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria (n = 405, 87% response rate) were used in a structural equation model to explore the extent to which their adoption of agricultural practices and management strategies was driven by perceptions of motivation, vulnerability, and capacity as a function of their psychological distance of climate change. Our results show that half of farmers did not adopt any practice or strategy, even though the majority perceived themselves capable and motivated to adapt to climate change, and understood their farms to be vulnerable to future extreme events. Furthermore, adoption was neither linked to these adaptation perceptions, nor to their psychological distance of climate change, which we found to be both near and far. Puerto Rican farmers’ showed a broad awareness of climate change’s impacts both locally and globally in different dimensions (temporal, spatial, and social), and climate distance was not linked to reported damages from Hurricane Maria or to previous extreme weather events. These results suggest that we may be reaching a tipping point for extreme events as a driver for climate belief and action, especially in places where there is a high level of climate change awareness and continued experience of compounded impacts. Further, high perceived capacity and motivation are not linked to actual adaptation behaviors, suggesting that broadening adaptation analyses beyond individual perceptions and capacities as drivers of climate adaptation may give us a better understanding of the determinants to strengthen farmers’ adaptive capacity.