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Working Papers

September 2023, No. 23-09

Charting the Course: How Does Information about Sea Level Rise Affect the Willingness to Migrate?

Laura Bakkensen, Quynh Nguyen, Toan Phan and Paul Schuler

An important yet less studied factor in determining the extent of adaptation to climate change is information: are people adequately informed about their vulnerability to future climate-related risks, and does their willingness to adapt depend on this knowledge? Focusing on how communication about projected sea level rise (SLR) affects the willingness to migrate, we implemented a large randomized control survey experiment with a nationally representative sample of more than 7,000 respondents across all provinces in Vietnam. We randomly assign respondents to different information treatments. We find that providing a simple text-based information treatment about the general extent of Vietnam's exposure to projected SLR increases all respondents' willingness to migrate (including respondents living in areas not vulnerable to SLR). However, a more spatially precise map information treatment—providing the general text along with a map showing Vietnam's projected SLR exposure—leads to a more targeted effect: it only significantly increases the willingness to migrate of respondents currently residing in vulnerable areas. Finally, adding doubt to the information treatments—mentioning an official repudiation of the scientific projection of SLR—does not reduce the treatments' impact. Our findings are inconsistent with the commonly used perfect information benchmark, which assumes that people are fully informed about future climate-related risks. They also highlight the importance of providing spatially precise information in facilitating climate adaptation.


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