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Public Readiness To Boost Urban Forests To Mitigate Climate Change

By Conni Kunzler | March 13, 2017

Source: Yenie Le Tran, Jacek P. Siry, J.M. Bowker, Neelam C. Poudyal, “Atlanta households’ willingness to increase urban forests to mitigate climate change,” Urban Forestry & Urban Greening

Athens, GA (February 10, 2017) – Investments in urban forests have been shown to provide countless ecosystem benefits with many addressing climate change issues, such as sequestering carbon, reducing air pollution, and decreasing the heat island effect. But policy responses vary around climate change as do public perceptions and engagement in solutions. Researchers explore this issue in Atlanta.

Individual groups within the American public may not respond to the issue of climate change in the same way, thus engaging each group in climate change solutions will require different approaches. It is helpful to understand how the public perceives climate change, their values and preferences, and barriers that might constrain their engagement to policy solutions.

To assess public perceptions, a mail survey was implemented, focused on households’ willingness to support and pay for urban forests as a climate change mitigation method. Atlanta, Georgia, was selected for the study given its environmental issues such as heat island effect and land cover changes, including conversion of forestland, that come with rapid population growth and urban sprawl.

A Tobit model was used to model willingness-to-pay as a function of several variables derived from survey results; and a multivariate weighting strategy was used to address non-response issues.

The analysis showed that Atlanta households are willing to pay $1.05 million to $1.22 million per year, or $5.24 to $6.11 million over a five-year period. The WTP amount was significantly related with the residents’ income, media source from where they received climate information, and the relative coverage of tree canopy around their residence.

Results are relevant to city managers who are interested in understanding the public value of urban greening programs and developing strategies or policies to expand urban forests as part of a climate change strategy.

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