Start-up seminar: The role of sources of uncertainty and temporal biases in climate change (in)action

Start-up seminar with PhD fellow Maria del Mar Moure Peña, Department of Food and Resource Economics, University of Copenhagen.

Moure will present the initial ideas for the PhD project titled “The role of sources of uncertainty and temporal biases in climate change (in)action”. Plenty of time will also be given for exchanging, since Moure would greatly appreciate feedback and use the opportunity to improve the research plan.


Human behavior and decision-making underlie climate change (CC) drivers but are also the key to successful adaptation. Risk managers and laypeople alike are increasingly under pressure to make critical adaption decisions despite uncertainties arising from the complexity of social-ecological systems, the ambiguity of potential impacts and about response options. Historically, research on environmental risks has assumed people are rational actors that seek available information to reduce their risk of loss and damage, an argument contested by empirical evidence. More recently, a shift away from this conception towards more dynamic theories of human behavior under uncertainty that account for cognitive biases has been initiated. Bias in decision-making is particularly relevant for CC, given the temporal distance of actions and feedback. However, this shift has not sufficiently translated into understanding how, when and why people adapt, or, crucially, how, when and why they do not. This research sets out to identify the influence of different sources of uncertainty in climate change adaptation decision-making, comparing risk management and public perspectives. In particular, the influence of temporal cognitive biases and corresponding coping mechanisms will be explored, taking the case of farmers transitioning to agroforestry in Mexico. Mental model mapping and subjective risk ranking techniques will be used to identify internal and external sources of uncertainty in an initial qualitative phase. Informed by these results, the influence of temporal biases on specific adaptation measures will be tested using a choice experiment to simulate adaptation decisions. With an interdisciplinary perspective that draws from methods and theories of geography, economics and psychology, the findings from this PhD will be positioned to not only advance the body of research, but also further efforts towards the informed adoption of adaptation plans and risk communication strategies.