The dynamics of vulnerability: locating coping strategies in Kenya and Tanzania, The Geographical Journal, Dec 2005 Siri Eriksen, Katrina Brown and P Mick Kelly Vulnerability: various definitions: “the potential to be adversely affected by an event or change”. Physical or social vulnerability.
IPCC: three components of vulnerability: Exposure Sensitivity Capacity to adapt.
Coping not same as adaptation: coping is within existing structures, adaptation changes the framework in which coping takes place. “Double exposure” (O’Brien and Leichenko, 2000) those members of society most vulnerable to global economic change may also be most vulnerable to climate change.
Comparative case study: how small scale farmers in dryland East Africa cope with climate stress, and the implications for reducing their vulnerability Mbiti in Kenya, in Kitui District Saweni in Tanzania, Same District.
Limits to human responses faced with several environmental stresses. Factors exclude sections of population from adopting particular coping strategies, e.g. Gendered access to labour power, capital and natural resources and skills, and restricted mobility exclude many women from successfully adopting specialised coping strategies.
Vulnerability Assessments in the Developing World: Mozambique and South Africa Siri Eriksen, Coleen Vogel, Gina Ziervogel, Franziska Steinbruch and Florence Nazare
Different institutional starting points lead to assessments investigating very different dimensions of vulnerability: Time scale: short / long Stressors, e.g. natural disasters, economic liberalization Focus; e.g. food security, health, economic activity.
Trends towards linking data to longer term policy processes. To identify longer term policies that target the causes of vulnerability, a different set of methods is needed than those tailored to emergency responses
Vulnerability cannot be assessed using a single stressor technique. Link assessment efforts by government sectors and institutions with those that are academic driven. Southern African Vulnerability Initiative
Why different interpretations of vulnerability matter in climate change discourse. Karen O’Brien, Siri Eriksen, Lynn Nygaard, Ane Schjolden. Climate Policy, 2007 (73-88). Synthesis Article.
Vulnerability is widely seen as an integrative concept that can link the social and biophysical dimensions of environmental change. But vulnerability means different things to different researchers. These different definitions are manifestations of different discourses that not only represent different approaches to science, but also different political responses to climate change. Can they be integrated?
Discourses and framings do matter. They influence the questions asked, the knowledge produced, and the policies and responses that are prioritized. Contrast: Outcome vulnerability Contextual vulnerability.
Outcome vulnerability: a linear result of the projected impacts of climate change on a particular exposure unit (biophysical or social), offset by adaptation measures. Contextual vulnerability: both climate variability and change are considered to occur in the context of political, institutional, economic and social structures and changes which interact dynamically.
Climate change modifies biophysical conditions, which alter the context for responding to other processes of change: e.g. economic liberalization, political decentralization, the spread of epidemics. Reducing vulnerability (then) involves altering the context in which climate change occurs.
These are two fundamentally different ways of framing the climate change problem. The first is depoliticised/technical.
Scientific framings. Firm boundaries are drawn between nature and society, and focus is mainly on nature as part of the earth system. Vulnerability is the negative outcome of climate change on any unit, that can be quantified and measured, and reduced through technical measures as well as reducing greenhouse gases emissions.
Human-security framings: may refer to more than food security or economic performance, and include e.g. a sense of belonging, respect, social and cultural heritage, equality and distribution of wealth, etc.
Identifying conceptualisations of vulnerability. Each tends to lead to similar types of diagnoses and recommendations; Ref two studies in Mozambique, one of each kind: outcome, contextual:
It is not explicit which conceptualization is used, but this can be identified. Prioritized questions Focal points Methods Identified results Policy responses
Conclusion Vulnerability reduction may be rhetorically non-controversial, but what this means in practice depends on the interpretation of vulnerability. The definition of vulnerability affects the type of adaptation that is promoted, hence decisions on what, how and who to fund. Is it possible to reconcile these?
Quote Newell et al: “If the knowledge that we seek to integrate consists of disparate models of causality, then the integration process cannot be simply a matter of building a ‘shared language’. Single words take multiple meanings when different speakers have different models and examples in mind. We must be particularly wary of superficial approaches to developing ‘better communication’ that only appear to remove conceptual confusion—’[a] common language may still hide divergent assumptions’ “
There have been many attempts to integrate the two, but without much success. ‘Two cultures’? Not exactly natural sciences vs. social sciences, but rather reductionist vs. holist approaches. Economics is an example of the former, ecology of the latter.
The dominance of the scientific framing of climate change has meant that the scope of adaptation policies has been interpreted quite narrowly. Increased attention to the human-security framing of climate change may raise the relevance of climate change to broader communities and create a greater urgency for understanding the complexities of the system.