Climate Change and the flood – how can economic approaches support sustainable behavioral changes?

The floods in Germany in July 2021 have shown again that also a country like Germany will be and is already affected by the changing climatic conditions. Science assumes that extreme weather conditions such as droughts and floods will increase in the future due to climate change. Several possibilities can be considered in order to be prepared for this scenario:
(1) Actively fight resp. slow down climate change (mitigation)
(2) Adapt to climate change and its consequences (adaptation)
(3) Combine both approaches
With regards to the first approach, instruments such as CO2 pricing schemes as already introduced in Germany can be used. An example for the second approach would be to build or strengthen dykes.
In order to reach the aim of a better adaptation to floods that occur more often and are more violent, it is necessary to take different measures. This means that e.g. the government has to create a legal framework and make sure it is respected when it comes to civil protection in general. But the individual behavior is important as well. Ideas from behavioral economics can be used here. These are rooted in psychology.
Current research shows for example, that information campaigns aiming for a better salience of private flood protection hardly influence individual behavior. On the other hand, we can show that individual experience with flooding increases the willingness to act dramatically.

To avoid that only personal experience leads to behavioral changes, we want to answer the following research question: How can behavioral economics be used to introduce behavioral changes in society to prevent future floods?

Must-Read – the team should read this before the Kick-Off

Frondel, M., M. Simora und S. Sommer (2017), Risk Perception of Climate Change: Empirical Evidence for Germany. Ruhr Economic Papers #676. RGS, RUB, RWI. DOI: 10.4419/86788784

Osberghaus, Daniel und Hendrik Hinrichs (2021), The Effectiveness of a Large-scale Flood Risk Awareness Campaign – Evidence from Two Panel Data Sets, Risk Analysis 41(6), 944-957.

Scientific Partner

Supporting Researchers

Delia Niehues

Photo: RWI

Delia Niehues has been working as a researcher in the research group „Prosocial Behaviour“ in the competence area „Environment and Resources“ since April 2021. She studied economics at the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn (B. Sc.). Her Master’s degree in Economic Policy Consulting (M. Sc.) took her to the Ruhr University Bochum and the Università di Pisa. During her studies, she first worked as an intern and later as a student assistant in the competence area Environment and Resources, where she also wrote her Master’s thesis.

Stephan Sommer

Photo: RWI

Stephan Sommer is Professor of Economics at the University of Applied Sciences Bochum. Since Decelber 2013 he has been working as a researcher in the department „Environment and Resources“. He completed his studies in „Management and Economics“ (Bachelor) and „Economics“ (Master) at the Ruhr-University Bochum and the Colegio Universitario de Estudios Financieros in Madrid. He received his PhD from the Ruhr-Universität Bochum in October 2018. His research interests include behavioral economics, applied econometrics and environmental, resource and energy economics.