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Patterns in household-level engagement with climate change in Indonesia

Nature Climate Change volume 3, pages 348351 (2013) | Download Citation


Understanding how individuals engage with climate change is critical for developing successful climate adaptation policies1. Indonesia ranks among the world’s top CO2 emitters2, affirming its relevance to the global climate change policy arena, yet the dynamics of climate change engagement in Indonesia may differ from developed countries from which much research on this issue derives3. We surveyed 6,310 households in two Indonesian regions to investigate patterns in four steps of engagement: observation, risk perception, reactive action (in response to present climate change) and proactive action (in anticipation of future climate change). We show that 89.5% of households exhibited a pattern whereby taking each of these steps in sequence implied taking all steps that precede it. Exceptions occurred in urban areas, where households were more likely to take action without having observed climate change or perceiving risks. In rural areas, households were more likely to observe climate change without taking action. These variations suggest a potentially nonlinear relationship between steps of engagement. We distinguish three types of household requiring adaptation support, and stress that Indonesian climate policy should shift emphasis from raising awareness to identifying broader institutional structures and processes to facilitate household engagement.

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This research was undertaken as part of a project funded by AusAID, CSIRO and PROFOR/World Bank. The authors thank P. Fadjar and his team at the Centre for Social Forestry, UNRAM and S. A. Kurnia and his team at UNDIP for sharing their local knowledge and for their numerous critical roles in executing the surveys. O. Banerjee, M. Greenhill and D. Kirono provided constructive reviews of the manuscript.

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  1. CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences, ATSIP, James Cook University Douglas Campus, Townsville, Queensland 4811, Australia

    • Erin L. Bohensky
    •  & Alex Smajgl
  2. ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University, Townsville, Queensland 4811, Australia

    • Tom Brewer


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A.S. developed the research questions and A.S. and E.L.B. designed the survey, organized and managed the Indonesian fieldwork and oversaw data collection. T.B. led the data organization and statistical analysis for this paper, with input from all authors. All authors contributed to interpretation and presentation of the data. E.L.B. led the writing of the paper, with input from all authors.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Erin L. Bohensky.

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