Robert Bosch Junior Professorship

Dr. Björn Vollan

How Climate Change Can Influence Human Behavior

Audio Slide Show
Climate change leads to changes in the natural world – the expansion of deserts, an increasing number of hurricanes and rising sea levels are only a few disastrous examples. What behavioral changes are exhibited by people when their immediate environment is affected by climate change? The effects of climate change on the behavior of the affected population are unclear in many aspects. And yet this is an extremely pressing issue – experts have predicted that in the year 2050, there will be about 200 million environmental migrants, and that they will soon comprise the largest group of involuntary migrants.

Within the scope of the Robert Bosch Junior Professorship, resource and behavioral economist Dr. Björn Vollan will take a closer look at the population groups on the Solomon Islands in the Southwest Pacific, along with others that will lose their homes in the foreseeable future as a result of rising sea levels. In the Philippines, he will study the behavior of the people who were affected by the devastating effects of Typhoon Yolanda, also known as Haiyan, in 2013.

Together with his research group at the Philipps-Universität in Marburg, Dr. Vollan is studying how the cohesion of village communities is affected by past and future climate catastrophes. Knowledge about a common future influences present-day behavior. This is why cooperation is possible in situations where people would usually be self-interested. But what happens if the common future falls apart? Is there less solidarity, willingness to help others, and trust? Or does the danger actually strengthen the community? He is particularly interested in how such events affect how the groups manage shared resources.

The goal is for the results of his research to offer sound advice to decision-makers, since national governments and the international community face enormous responsibilities wherever people lose their homes as a result of environmental influences. Dr. Vollan’s work in the Philippines for example could provide important information to improve the coordination of international disaster and development aid.

(Johannes M. Müller, March 2015)

Brief Profile

Dr. Björn Vollan, born in 1976, studied economics in Freiburg and earned his doctorate at Philipps-Universität in Marburg. The title of his dissertation was "Co-operation for Common Pool Resources: An Experimental Perspective." His research to date has taken him to regions such as Africa, China, Mexico, and the Philippines. For the Junior Professorship, Dr. Vollan is returning to Marburg from the University of Innsbruck’s Research Center for Environmental Economics and Regional Development.

Picture Gallery

Prof. Dr. Klaus Töpfer, Uta-Micaela Dürig, and Dr. Christof Bosch.