Friday, April 8, 2011

Sarasota businesses take small steps to confront climate risks

Alyson Kenward in Climate Central: To the casual observer, some of Sarasota, Florida’s small business owners must seem rather irrational. Even though the city’s downtown lies in prime hurricane territory along Florida's west coast, and may only become more vulnerable to damaging storms as sea level rises, a new study shows that only a few restaurants and shops in the area have taken significant steps to prepare for future storms.

In fact, according to the study, the closer a Sarasota business is to the waterfront — usually the riskiest place to be during a hurricane — the less likely it is that the owner is preparing for the worst, even though they probably know the risks.

“Amongst the business owners, there is pretty broad acknowledgment that climate change is real and that sea level rise will have an impact on the city of Sarasota,” says Peter Howe, a researcher from Pennsylvania State University who has been digging deeper into the unexpected behavior of Sarasota business owners. In a recent survey of over 250 Sarasota businesses, Howe investigated how the Florida locals perceive hurricane and climate change risks, and what motivates them to prepare for the impacts. The results will be published in an upcoming issue of the journal Global Environmental Change.

…“Many of the folks that live here today have seen bad storms somewhere else. They remember Hurricane Andrew, for example. And that visceral image just sticks with them, so they want to be prepared themselves,” Queior explains. Moreover, he says that a lot of people in Sarasota also realize that sea level rise can cause hurricane storm surges to increase, and therefore hurricanes in the future may be more damaging than they are today.

But one insight from the study is that that even if the community does know they are threatened by climate change and they want to be prepared for it, Howe found that business owners may only take small precautionary steps while avoiding actions that would do more to minimize storm damage….

A pelican hunting fish at sunset in Sarasota, shot by Kolossos, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

No comments: