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Published Online: 1 August 2017

Emotion, Coping, and Climate Change in Island Nations: Implications for Environmental Justice

Publication: Environmental Justice
Volume 10, Issue Number 4


Island nations are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, including changes in sea level, storms, coastal erosion, and freshwater availability. The purpose of this cross-cultural study is to understand how emotional responses to climate change are inequitably distributed across people living in island nations with varying climate change vulnerability. We consider how emotional responses (particularly sadness, worry, anger, happiness, and hope) may be related to people's biophysical vulnerability, adaptive capacity, and likelihood of relocation in the face of climate change. Using data from 272 ethnographic interviews collected in local communities in Fiji, Cyprus, New Zealand, and England, we explore the emotional reactions of respondents to current and future effects of climate change. Our results demonstrate that respondents in island nations with greater biophysical vulnerability are more likely to be concerned about relocation as a result of climate change, and they are also more likely to indicate their sadness or anger. Countries with higher adaptive capacity and lower biophysical vulnerability are more likely to suggest that, though they are sad about the effects of climate change, they feel neutral about its overall effect. This research demonstrates how focusing on emotional responses within communities affected by climate change brings important and under-explored dimensions of climate-related environmental injustice into sharp relief.

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Published In

cover image Environmental Justice
Environmental Justice
Volume 10Issue Number 4August 2017
Pages: 102 - 107


Published in print: August 2017
Published online: 1 August 2017
Published ahead of print: 6 June 2017


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Dr. Margaret V. du Bray is a postdoctoral researcher in the Sociology Department at Idaho State University, Pocatello, Idaho. Dr. Amber Wutich is a professor at School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona. Dr. Kelli L. Larson is an associate professor at the School of Geographic Sciences and Planning, and the School of Sustainability, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona. Dr. Dave D. White is a professor at the School of Resources and Community Development, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona. Dr. Alexandra Brewis is a professor at the School of Human Evolution and Social Change, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona.
Address correspondence to:Margaret V. du BrayDepartment of Sociology, Social Work, and CriminologyIdaho State University921 S. 8th Avenue, Stop 8114Pocatello, ID 83209E-mail: [email protected]

Author Disclosure Statement

No competing financial interests exist.


This material is based on work supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) under Grant No. SES-0951366, DMUU: Decision Center for a Desert City II: Urban Climate Adaptation; and Grant No. SES-1462086, DMUU: DCDC III: Transformational Solutions for Urban Water Sustainability Transitions in the Colorado River Basin. Additional support was provided by NSF grant BCS-1026865: Central-Arizona Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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