UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Adaptation Attitudes Are Guided by “Lived Experience” Rather than Electoral Interests: Evidence from a Survey Experiment in Bangladesh Eisenstadt, Todd A.; Haque, Sk Tawfique M.; Toman, Michael A.; Wright, Matthew (Assistant professor of political science)


After decades of presuming that climate adaptation is a private good benefitting only those receiving resources to reduce individual climate risks, respondents in a survey experiment among the climate-vulnerable in Bangladesh chose less-particularistic adaptation projects than “electoral connection” disaster relief theories predict and more “short-sighted” projects than international diplomats anticipate. This article reports on the experiment, which asked a representative national sample of Bangladeshis whether they favor spending funds on short-term particularistic solutions (disaster relief stockpiles), medium-term inclusionary and non-excludable solutions (ocean embankments), or long-term, public goods solutions (the development of flood-resistant rice seeds). More respondents chose “middle ground” embankment spending, and a statistically significant change in respondent propensities was tied to their lived experience with climate vulnerability rather than electoral incentives. The logic of their choices contradicts existing explanations, implying that a reconsideration of vulnerable community preferences, and how to address them, may be needed.

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