Island nations are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, including changes in sea level, storms, coastal erosion, and freshwater availability. The purpose of this cross-cultural study is to understand how emotional responses to climate change are inequitably distributed across people living in island nations with varying climate change vulnerability. We consider how emotional responses (particularly sadness, worry, anger, happiness, and hope) may be related to people's biophysical vulnerability, adaptive capacity, and likelihood of relocation in the face of climate change. Using data from 272 ethnographic interviews collected in local communities in Fiji, Cyprus, New Zealand, and England, we explore the emotional reactions of respondents to current and future effects of climate change. Our results demonstrate that respondents in island nations with greater biophysical vulnerability are more likely to be concerned about relocation as a result of climate change, and they are also more likely to indicate their sadness or anger. Countries with higher adaptive capacity and lower biophysical vulnerability are more likely to suggest that, though they are sad about the effects of climate change, they feel neutral about its overall effect. This research demonstrates how focusing on emotional responses within communities affected by climate change brings important and under-explored dimensions of climate-related environmental injustice into sharp relief.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)102-107
Number of pages6
JournalEnvironmental Justice
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2017


  • Climate change
  • Emotional geography
  • Island nations
  • Vulnerability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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