Climate Change, Community Understanding and Emotional Responses to the Impacts of Heat Waves in Adelaide

By Derick A. Akompab, Peng Bi, Susan Williams, Arthur Saniotis, Iain A. Walker and Martha Augoustinos.

Published by The International Journal of Climate Change: Impacts and Responses

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Introduction: Climate change will very likely increase the frequency and severity of heat waves. Episodes of unprecedented heat waves have been recorded in Adelaide in recent years. This paper uses the mental model approach to explore the community’s understanding of the consequences associated with heat waves, their understanding about human vulnerability to heat waves as well the concerns and emotional responses associated with heat waves. Methods: In-depth, semi-structured interviews were conducted among a convenience sample of 14 residents in Adelaide between December 2011 and January 2012 by telephone. Informed consent was obtained and interviews were recorded, transcribed verbatim and analysed according to themes. Results: Overall, participants had an informed understanding about the effects of heat waves although there exited differences in knowledge and understanding among participants. The study found that participants associated heat waves with skin cancer, heat exhaustion, heat stroke, disruption in social life and psychological impacts such as stress, tiredness, depression, sleeplessness, moodiness which could affect their mental health and well-being. Emotional responses associated with heat waves reported by participants included fear, worry and anxiety. The study found that during a heat wave, participants are concern about the safety of their grandparents, pets, garden, health and fitness, agricultural productivity and the threat of wildfires. Conclusion: Participants had a somewhat good understanding of heat waves, but the use of mental models assisted in identifying knowledge gaps which would inform the development of education programmes about heat waves for the community. There is also need for social services to be strengthened in order to provide support to vulnerable groups during periods of heat waves.

Keywords: Climate Change, Heat Waves, Mental Models, Concern and Emotional Responses, Australia

The International Journal of Climate Change: Impacts and Responses, Volume 4, Issue 2, pp.109-126. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 443.744KB).

Derick A. Akompab

PhD Candidate, Discipline of Public Health, The University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia

Prof. Peng Bi

Professor of Public Health, Discipline of Public Health, The University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia

Dr. Susan Williams

Research Associate, Discipline of Public Health, The University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia

Dr. Arthur Saniotis

Visiting Research Fellow, Discipline of Public Health, The University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia

Prof. Iain A. Walker

Socio-behavioral Science Research Team Leader, Sustainable Ecosystems, Climate Adaptation Flagship, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Perth, Australia

Martha Augoustinos

Prof., School of Psychology, The University of Adelaide, Adelaide, Australia


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