||Climate change and sea level rise pose significant threats to both the natural and
built environment. Thus, it is becoming increasingly important for coastal communities
to develop strategies that facilitate adaptation efforts in order to reduce their
vulnerability. This research, in conjunction with the work of our client, Dr. Grit
Martinez with Ecologic Institute, and the Regional Adaptation Strategies for the German
Baltic Sea Coast (RADOST) project, involved a comparative analysis of the cultural
perceptions of climate change and sea level rise adaptation strategies in Maryland
and North Carolina. Through the completion of a literature review and in-person interviews
with key informants and public citizens, this project investigated how differences
in local perceptions affect current efforts to plan for and adapt to sea level rise.
The study employed a “total ecology” framework in order to determine whether differences
in the existing biophysical conditions, social demographics, and institutional frameworks
of our study areas influence local perceptions of climate change and its associated
impacts and, subsequently, whether these differences in perceptions affect current
and future adaptation efforts. Several important themes emerged from the literature
review and interview findings, including 1) the range of beliefs regarding climate
change and sea level rise science, 2) the uneven distribution of interest in climate
change related issues, 3) the lack of resources to address environmental challenges,
and 4) additional barriers to the development and implementation of adaptation strategies.
Overall, our research supports the overarching hypothesis that differences in biophysical
conditions, social demographics, and existing policy frameworks influence local perceptions
of climate change and sea level rise and the community’s willingness to formally address
sea level rise concerns. However, our findings suggest that the ways in which the
total ecology of a region influences local perceptions is very complex."