Goeldner-Gianella, L., Grancher, D., Magnan, A.K., de Belizal, E., Duvat, V. (2019). The perception of climate-related coastal risks and environmental changes on the Rangiroa and Tikehau atolls, French Polynesia: The role of sensitive and intellectual drivers. Ocean & Coastal Management, Volume 172, 15 April 2019, Pages 14-29.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ocecoaman.2019.01.018


  • We ran a survey on climate-related coastal risks' perception in French Polynesia.
  • People have perceived changes concerning weather, coral reefs, beaches for 70 years.
  • However, interviewees show contrasting knowledge about global climate change and its local impacts.
  • Risks' perception varies on atolls in relation to education and urbanization levels.
  • Policy must mix intellectual and sensitive approaches of climate change and coastal risks.


French coastal policies have recently put greater emphasis on the need to better inform coastal populations about coastal risks in the context of climate change, in particular in French overseas territories that are nationally recognized as hotspots. It is therefore critical to further assess local populations' knowledge and perceptions of climate-related coastal risks. In this respect, we ran a social survey among inhabitants of two atolls of French Polynesia in the Pacific Ocean, using a questionnaire and semi-structured interviews largely based on images of landscapes. The results show that (1) coastal risks are not considered as a danger but only as a problem, and that (2) inhabitants have a very clear perception of the changes that have occurred locally over the last 70 years with respect to weather, climate, corals and beaches. (3) Interviewees generally show some knowledge about the notion of global climate change and its potential local impacts. (4) However, a multiple correspondence analysis distinguishes four groups (the ‘informed’, ’poorly informed, ‘uninformed’ and ‘distant’ groups) separated by age and gender, but also by levels of education and urbanization. The discussion therefore focuses on the most important drivers of climate change perception, showing a disconnection between atolls and generations: rural and older inhabitants present more sensitive mechanisms of risk perception and urban and younger interviewees more intellectual ones. A major challenge consists in bringing these dimensions closer by better integrating, on an intellectual level, local climate-related coastal risks into school programs, and by defining, on a more sensitive level, an ambitious cultural and environmental policy to allow young generations to keep contact with their original living environment. Highlighting the interest of this survey, risk management and adaptation policies now support the reactivation of local knowledge and practices.

  • Lydie Goeldner-Gianella,
  • Delphine Grancher,
  • Alexandre K. Magnan,
  • Édouard de Bélizal,
  • Virginie Duvat