Explaining differential vulnerability to climate change: A social science review

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Dec 07, 2018
Author: 
Kimberley Thomas, R. Dean Hardy, Heather Lazrus, Michael Mendez, Ben Orlove, Isabel Rivera‐Collazo, J. Timmons Roberts, Marcy Rockman, Benjamin P. Warner, Robert Winthrop

 

Abstract

The varied effects of recent extreme weather events around the world exemplify the uneven impacts of climate change on populations, even within relatively small geographic regions. Differential human vulnerability to environmental hazards results from a range of social, economic, historical, and political factors, all of which operate at multiple scales. While adaptation to climate change has been the dominant focus of policy and research agendas, it is essential to ask as well why some communities and peoples are disproportionately exposed to and affected by climate threats. The cases and synthesis presented here are organized around four key themes (resource access, governance, culture, and knowledge), which we approach from four social science fields (cultural anthropology, archaeology, human geography, and sociology). Social scientific approaches to human vulnerability draw vital attention to the root causes of climate change threats and the reasons that people are forced to adapt to them. Because vulnerability is a multidimensional process rather than an unchanging state, a dynamic social approach to vulnerability is most likely to improve mitigation and adaptation planning efforts.

Read the full article in WIREs Climate Change.

Associated SESYNC Researcher(s): 
DOI for citing: 
https://doi.org/10.1002/wcc.565
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