Our paper on community vulnerability to floods and hurricanes in the Gulf Coast has been recognized as the most cited paper in the journal Disasters.
Our new paper, entitled "Public awareness and perceptions of drought: A case study of two cities of Alabama" is published in Risk, Hazards, & Crisis in Public Policy. Below please find the abstract:
"Drought poses serious risks to society. There is, however, a lack of timely public awareness and sufficient public risk perceptions of this hazard due to its gradual onset. Timely and adequate public response is conducive to effective mitigation. It is imperative to understand how the public responds to drought. Using data from multiple sources, situated in two cities (Mobile and Huntsville) of Alabama, our study represents a comprehensive effort to understand public awareness and perceptions of drought. We have made several important findings. First, both physical and social contexts can influence public awareness of drought. Mobile is prone to a variety of coastal hazards and displays high social vulnerability. Residents in this city are thus more sensitive to environmental shocks, especially less frequent ones such as drought. Second, public awareness of drought is not constrained within the immediate drought impact area. Governmental declaration or regulation can bring the issue of drought from one area to the attention of the other area within one state. Third, public perceptions of drought numbers are negatively correlated with perceptions of precipitation but positively associated with perceptions of extreme heat. This finding reflects that the public perception of drought is in line with scientific understanding of drought. Drought is by definition persistent deficit of precipitation. Flash droughts can be triggered by heat waves which are more likely to occur during a drought. We end this study with recommendations for future studies."
Our new paper has been published in Science of the Total Environment (Impact Factor: 7.963). Below please find the abstract:
"Climate extremes will be intensified and become more frequent. One of the regions where this is the case is the U.S. Gulf coast region. This region is susceptible to the impacts of climate extremes. This region has recently experienced large amounts of economic damages caused by high-impact hurricanes and floods. Meanwhile, drought can also pose serious risks once it occurs. By using a 2019 U.S. Gulf Coast survey combined with Standard Precipitation Index, we closely examined retrospective and prospective evaluations of drought and flood among coastal residents. Drawing upon literature on human-environment system, we were interested in how the objective conditions of past drought and flood influenced individual’s perceptions of these hazards and how their retrospective evaluations were correlated with their prospective evaluations of future trends of these hazards. Coastal residents’ retrospective evaluations of past drought and flood were found to be influenced by historic objective conditions. Higher drought frequencies were found to increase the probability of perceiving increasing trend of drought number in the past. Higher flood frequencies were found to decrease the probability of perceiving increasing trend of flood number in the past. Higher intensities of drought and flood were found to increase the probabilities of perceiving increasing trends of drought duration and flood amount in the past. Coastal residents’ prospective evaluations of future drought and flood were found to be influenced by retrospective evaluations of these hazards, suggesting the temporal continuity in human judgement. Moreover, those who relied on a longer time span in reference to the future were found to be more likely to perceive increasing trends of drought and flood. We ended this paper by proposing a theoretical framework to guide future studies and discussing policy implications."
Core Figure - Figure 4. Retrospective evaluations of drought and flood risk and association with objective conditions (a) and their correlations with prospective evaluations of drought and flood risk (b). In (a), filled circles, circles with cross, empty circles depict the frequency, duration, intensity, respectively, of drought (red) and flood (blue). In (b) filled (empty) circles depict retrospective evaluations on past drought and flood numbers (past drought duration and past flood amount). The bars represent confidence intervals of all the estimated coefficients (Shao and Kam, 2020)
Our new paper, entitled "Approval of Political Leaders can Slant Evaluation of Political Issues: Evidence from Public Concern for Climate Change in the U.S." has been published in Climatic Change. You can find the abstract below:
"Climate change has become one of the signature issues that divides the American public. Numerous empirical studies of the past two decades have identified the politicization of this issue. In recent years, the concurrence of rising extreme weather events and uptick in public concern for climate change has led to common speculation that the former may drive up the latter. Using a nationally representative survey dataset combined with climate extremes data including extreme heat, extreme precipitation, and mild drought or worse, we use Structural Equation Modeling to examine how politics and climate extremes altogether shape American public concern for climate change. In addition to confirming politicization of climate change, we find that approval of President Trump not only promotes skeptical climate change perceptions but also serve as an intervening amplifier of these perceptions for Republicans and conservatives. Thus, one’s concern for climate change is partially explained by their political identification and partially explained by their levels of approval of Trump. With the 2020 presidential election underway, it remains to be seen how attitudes toward presidential candidates can affect climate change perceptions and support for climate policies. The widely speculated role of climate extremes however fails to show significant effects in views towards climate change. We provide explanations for this insignificant finding. The study ends by calling for more studies to further investigate into the drivers of formation of opinions towards climate change."
The following figure is from the accepted manuscript (Shao and Hao 2020 a)
The 2019 Journey in Science series at Rodgers Library for Science & Engineering at the University of Alabama:
I will give a lightening talk summarizing my past and recent research on the topic of American public opinion towards climate change. In this talk, I will discuss the various forces including both natural and socio-political ones that influence American opinion towards this critical issue.
I just published one analysis article on extreme weather and American public opinion towards climate change on the Monkey Cage in Washington Post . Here is one paragraph:
"Here is what is going on: The baseline probabilities of Democrats’ and Republicans’ perceptions of climate change and extreme weather are different. To illustrate, imagine that the probability that someone in Party A believes in human-made climate change may be 80 percent, while that probability for someone in Party B may be only 30 percent. What my research finds is that extreme weather events can change that baseline probability upward, regardless of partisanship or ideology. That change may be more dramatic for those in Party A than Party B. Nevertheless, the change does occur; extreme weather can move the needle."
The recently released Fourth National Climate Assessment sends an urgent message to communities across the nation. Extreme weather events will intensify and become more frequent. The increasing intensity and frequency of extreme weather events will pose serious threats to communities, especially low-income and other marginalized communities. Although many local communities have displayed growing interest in elevating their resilience to the ever changing climatic conditions, much less interest has been shown in mitigating carbon emission as we have seen in the failures to pass carbon tax in even liberal states. Understandably, climate change being the ultimate tragedy of the commons, the benefit of reducing carbon emission is trivial compared to that of taking actions to adapt to climate change at the local level. However, this level of urgency and impact does demand regional and national cooperative framework.
A year after Hurricane Harvey, the decisions to rebuild can affect the future. I just published an analysis article on the Conversation. Here is the last paragraph:
"My recent research shows that even with their flaws, FEMA flood maps influence decisions to purchase flood insurance and overall support for flood mitigation. Policy makers need to seriously consider how to accurately communicate increasing flood risks to the public. Reverting to old flood maps and granting variances to promote development is a recipe for more disasters down the road."
Hat tip to Emily Powell at the National Wildlife Federation, who brought this situation to my attention.
I am honored to be invited to give a seminar talk, entitled "Understanding Human Judgement on Environmental Risks and Hazards in a Geographic Context," at the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Princeton University on June 21.
The abstract of the talk is as follows:
"The coupling effects of changing climate and rising concentration of population and assets in the coastal regions have increased the threat of potential damages. There is an urgent need for coastal communities to prepare well for future hazards through mitigation and adaptation measures. A growing number of empirical studies have found that peoples’ motivation of voluntary risk mitigation and adaptation is low unless actual risk can be perceived. Risk perception is thus the precondition for adaptive behavior. It is of both intellectual and practical interests to study what affects individuals’/communities’ risk perceptions. In this talk, I will present four of my previous studies. The first three studies are focused on the individual level and the fourth on the aggregate level. I will start with understanding how local weather and climate affect American public risk perceptions of climate change. I will then discuss how the spatial context represented by past flooding events and estimated flooding risks influence costal residents’ voluntary flood insurance purchase decisions and their support for flood adaptation policies. As many policies are designed and implemented at an aggregate level (i.e., state, county, city), it is necessary to examine aggregate-level risk perceptions. In the fourth study, I will focus on how the contextual hurricane risks in conjunction with community resilience shape county-level perceptions of hurricane-related risks. I will end with a research agenda linking communities’ perception with contextual risks and community resilience. I contend that the cognitive dimension including both risk perceptions and perceived adaptive capacity is not represented in any of the existing community resilience indexes, and therefore needs to be measured, quantified, and incorporated into a more comprehensive index."