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Vulnerability of People, Places and Systems to Environmental Change

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Presentation on theme: "Vulnerability of People, Places and Systems to Environmental Change"— Presentation transcript:

1 Vulnerability of People, Places and Systems to Environmental Change
Neil Leary START December 18, 2002 CMU Distance Seminar

2 Consequences of environmental change are not uniform
Differ for different People Places Times Responses to the risks will also differ

3 Vulnerability Assessment
Investigation of causes of differential consequences and responses to offset, lessen or prevent potential adverse consequences. Seeks answers to questions such as Who (or what) is vulnerable? To what are they vulnerable? Why are they vulnerable? What responses can lessen vulnerability?

4 Overview of talk Define vulnerability and related concepts
Compare vulnerability and impact assessment approaches Describe selected frameworks for vulnerability assessment Summary from selected literature of who and what are vulnerable to global environmental change

5 Numerous definitions of vulnerability
Differ in their emphases and details Common elements of most definitions: the capacity to suffer harm from exposure to perturbations or stresses climate change and extremes, land degradation, demographic change, technological change, . . . this capacity is conditioned by a variety of internal factors that shape the state of the people, system or place being exposed

6 Two strands in study of vulnerability: biophysical and social
Biophysical - roots in natural hazards field focus is on characterizing exposure to a hazard in biophysical terms identify spatial distribution of the hazard estimate human occupancy of hazard zone determine the magnitude, duration, frequency of the hazard estimate the potential loss of life and property associated with occurrence of the hazard

7 Social strand of vulnerability research
Primary attention given to social determinants of vulnerability Causes of vulnerability sought in the social processes that place people in harm’s way shape capacities to absorb stresses, cope with and adapt to change, and recover from harm

8 Integration of these strands
Has yielded a framework in which determinants of vulnerability are grouped into 3 dimensions of vulnerability Exposure Sensitivity Resilience *Coping and adaptation capacities are key aspects of sensitivity and resilience.

9 Framework for Vulnerability Assessment

10 Vulnerability can be lessened by interventions at a number of points
Lessen exposure to perturbations and stresses Lessen sensitivities to exposures Increase capacities to cope or adapt Increase resilience and recovery potential


12 Impact vs Vulnerability Assessment
Impact Assessment Motivation: how bad are the risks? Attempt to “predict” impacts Careful attention to modeling future exposure Capacities not emphasized Focus on a single stress Recent experience not directly relevant Treatment of adaptation is ad hoc, afterthought Vulnerability Assessment Motivation: what would reduce risks? Investigate causes of vulnerability Careful attention to social causes of vulnerability, capacities to respond using sensitivity analyses Multiple stresses considered Recent experience with hazards, stresses used as analogues Treatment of adaptation central

13 Common Ground for V & I Analyses
VA needed to provide more sophisticated understanding & representation of Capacities of people, communities, systems Adaptation processes and effectiveness Dimensions of the hazard that matter most Impact models can integrate info about capacities with “predicted” exposures Quantitative estimates of impacts for different scenarios of capacities and exposures Quantitative risk analysis

14 Some approaches to vulnerability assessment
Entitlements theory (A. Sen, 1981) Political-ecology (Bohle, Downing, Watts, 1994) Coupled human-environment system (Kasperson et al, 2002)

15 “Starvation is the characteristic of some people not having enough food to eat. It is not the characteristic of there being not enough food to eat. While the later can cause the former, it is but one of many possible causes.” A. Sen, Poverty and Famines, An Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation, 1981, pg 1

16 Entitlements framework
Endowment bundle individual’s own labor power plus land and other assets he/she owns Entitlement mapping rules, processes for transforming endowment bundle into entitlements (e.g. market structure & regulations, rights to communal output, . . .) Entitlement set commodity bundles, including food, that can be commanded given an initial endowment

17 Endowments can be partitioned into those that map into entitlement sets that
include a minimum food requirement and allow the individual to avoid starvation and those that do not and in consequence lead to starvation.

18 Environmental change can make people more (less) vulnerable to hunger/poverty
Collapsing (expanding) endowments e.g. climate change that reduces (increases) productivity of a peasant’s land Changes in entitlement mapping e.g. land use changes that increase (decrease) food prices These changes can place minimum food requirements and basic needs within or outside the reach of some.

19 Applications of entitlement theory
Kelly and Adger (2000) examine effect of privatizing economy of Vietnam on vulnerability of coastal villages to storms variety of effects on endowments and entitlement mappings net effects ambiguous but can identify aspects that amplify or dampen vulnerability and which can be targeted by adaptive responses

20 Political-Ecology Framework
3 Dimensions to vulnerability Exposure to crises, stress, shocks Capacity to cope Recovery potential How person, group or place is situated in these dimensions determined by Human ecology Expanded entitlements Political economy

21 Human ecology: relations between society and nature
Means by which humans transform nature into goods and services & properties of society and ecosystems that govern transformations Expanded entitlements: extension of Sen to wider social entitlements Political economy: macro-scale processes Set/change rules for how entitlements are secured, contested, defended; Also for drawing on broader resources for recovery Shape development path; place of different groups in it.


23 Subsistence herders in Mongolia
Exposed to “dzud” (harsh winter) Livelihood is sensitive to rangeland productivity, which is impacted by “dzud” Resilience shaped by condition of land, which is function of history of land use Land tenure key determinant of entitlements entitlements changing (large communes to private holdings, also “traditional” communes) Herders have some leverage in domestic political-economy to alter rules for tenure

24 Coupled Human-Environment System
Human & natural systems treated more explicitly as coupled interactions, feedbacks modeled give rise to vulnerability by determining exposure, sensitivity and resilience Focus shifted from single to multiple, ongoing stresses Internal as well as external stresses treated Responses that amplify or dampen vulnerability treated as endogenous Investigation at multiple spatial & temporal scales emphasized, cross-scale interactions

25 Who and What are Vulnerable?
Different conceptual frameworks, limited information on exposures, sensitivities & resilience, site specific factors hamper synthesis. Some general, tentative conclusions Individuals/livelihoods: Bohle et al (1994), Kelly-Adger (2000), FAO (1999) Settlements: Scott et al (2001, IPCC, WG2) Regions: IPCC, WG2 Summary for Policymakers

26 Vulnerable individuals & livelihoods
Individuals particularly vulnerable to environmental change are those with Relatively high exposures to changes High sensitivities to changes Low coping and adaptive capacities Low resilience and recovery potential

27 Vulnerable individuals & livelihoods
Persons w/ livelihoods dependent on primary resources of variable & fragile productivity Farming, herding, fishing, hunting/gathering, logging Indigenous people w/ traditional livelihoods Wage laborers in remote areas w/ no direct access to agricultural production. Inhabitants of exposed & sensitive places Poor - lack entitlements needed to cope, adapt, recover Refugees - often nearly destitute, rely on aid Disenfranchised - lack ability within political economy to influence changes in entitlements

28 Groups vulnerable to hunger (FAO, 1999)
Victims of conflict refugees, landless, disabled, widows & orphans Migrant workers and their families Marginal groups in urban areas School dropouts, new migrants, unemployed, informal sector workers, homeless, . . . At-Risk social groups Indigenous people, minorities, illiterate Low income in vulnerable livelihood systems Subsistence or small scale farming, female headed farm households, landless peasants, agricultural laborers, . . . Dependent people living alone

29 Vulnerable Settlements (Scott et al., 2001, IPCC TAR)
Evaluated vulnerabilities of different settlement types to different climate stresses Primary resource dependent settlements Settlements in coastal or riverine floodplains, steep-slopes Urban vs rural High vs low capacity to cope and adapt Vulnerability rated Low, Moderate, High Low: impacts barely discernible, easily overcome Moderate: impacts clearly noticeable but not disruptive, may require significant expense/difficulty to adapt High: impacts clearly disruptive, may not be overcome w/ adaptation, or cost of adaptation itself is disruptive

30 Vulnerable Settlements (Scott et al., 2001, IPCC TAR)

31 Vulnerable Settlements (Scott et al., 2001, IPCC TAR)
Vulnerability to flooding/landslides widespread across all settlement types considered Resource dependent settlements more vulnerable to changes in productivity of primary resources Coastal/steepland settlements more vulnerable to floods, landslides Rural more vulnerable than urban Low capacity more vulnerable than high capacity

32 Vulnerability of regions to climate change (from IPCC, 2001)
Substantial differences within regions Developing world highly vulnerable Developed world generally less vulnerable But some marginalized populations highly vulnerable

33 High vulnerability in developing world
Low levels of human, financial, natural, physical capital Large number of poor, destitute, compromised health Limited institutional and technological capabilities Other stresses taxing capacity to cope, adapt, recover Climate sensitive primary resource sectors account for large share of GDP Larger share of pop. earn livelihoods from these sectors Harsher exposures/impacts in some cases Grain yields more likely to decrease in tropics, subtropics than in temperate climates Infectious disease is greater risk at present; more vulnerable to increases from climate change

34 Africa Very low adaptive capacity, high vulnerability
Human-Environment conditions: High proportion pop. poor, risk of hunger, low health status Low HDI, little capital 1/3 incomes from farming; 70% earn livelihood from farming High reliance on rainfed ag; highly variable rainfall Key concerns Food security, water availability, infectious disease, desertification, extreme weather, biodiversity

35 Asia Capacity varied, vulnerability varied
Human-Environment conditions Wide range development levels; HDI low in south, medium southeast, high some countries Large pop. in poverty 2/3 of world’s undernourished live in Asia Key concerns Extreme weather, changes in monsoon, food security, water availability, infectious disease, coastal settlements, biodiversity, infrastructure in permafrost zones

36 North America (Canada & US)
High adaptive capacity, low vulnerability Human-Environment conditions High HDI, high food security, good health status Some communities/groups vulnerable Key concerns Agricultural productivity, water availability, ecosystem change/loss, coastal settlements, extreme weather, insurance losses, health

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