John Libbey Eurotext

Environnement, Risques & Santé


Perceptions of risk and climate change in densely populated coastal areas Volume 17, issue 3, May-June 2018


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Université du Littoral Côte d’Opale
Laboratoire territoires, villes, environnement et société (EA 4477)
21, quai de la citadelle
BP 5528
59383 Dunkerque cedex
* Tirés à part
  • Key words: climate change, risk, perception, floods, environmental pollution
  • DOI : 10.1684/ers.2018.1175
  • Page(s) : 278-93
  • Published in: 2018

Coastal risks tend to be amplified by the effects of climate change. Coastal zones are increasingly attractive to populations, but their residents are exposed to a multitude of risks. This article highlights the results of a flood risk perception survey conducted in the Dunkirk Urban Community, a densely populated coastal area and industrial port, surrounded by Seveso sites.

The survey was conducted by administering a questionnaire face-to-face to residents at their homes. The sample, selected according to the quota method and divided into five specific survey sites, was representative of the population concerned.

The results showed that the risk of flooding caused less concern overall than other risks (concerns were expressed by around 25% of the subjects). The risks of pollution and serious illness were the most worrisome, followed by industrial and nuclear risks. Concerns varied slightly depending on location.

Respondents were particularly sensitive to climate change. Nearly nine of ten people reported believing that climate change is real (with varying degrees of certainty) and mainly considered the effects they perceive locally (rising temperatures and little difference between seasons).

The flood risk is perceived as growing. Although most respondents were unsure whether or not the number of floods was increasing, more than half thought it would (with varying degrees of certainty). Climate change and rising sea levels were the factors primarily identified as responsible for increasing this risk. Sensitivity to climate change reinforced the belief that risk will increase.

About three in ten respondents had already experienced flooding, which enhanced their climate sensitivity and fear of flood risk. In addition, those who had experienced it personally, rather than indirectly through their relatives, tended to be more concerned about the risk of flooding.