School of GeoSciences

School of GeoSciences

YoungHwa Cha

Perspectives on Social Vulnerability in the context of City-Level Responses to Climate Change

Understanding which communities, regions, or businesses could be affected the most will allow for an identification of “hotspots of vulnerability”; addressing vulnerability is, thus, a prioritization of climate change adaptation support (Moser, 2010). The opportunity to avoid disasters can be shown differently beyond social groups and even individuals due to the fact that there are particular characteristics of different groups of people derived from economic, social and political processes. It is particularly important that urban areas are prepared for such events since 50% of the world’s population lives in cities, a number that is expected to increase to 59% by 2030 (UN-habitat, 2011). If the effects of climate change are left unaddressed, they are likely to exacerbate existing challenges and to make it more difficult not only cities but also countries to achieve sustainable development and reduce poverty (World-Bank, 2011).

There is a burgeoning literature on climate justice looking at different impacts of adaptation policies (Steele et al., 2012, Paavola and Adger, 2006, Bulkeley et al., 2014, MacCallum et al., 2014). But in the process of delivering the theory to policies and the implementing policies, the principle of fairness and equity is often hindered by economic issues and the power of leading political groups. Bunce (2009) have also analysed that ‘developing sustainability’ and ‘sustainable communities’ may become the domain of urban elites, marginalising or ignoring social justice and equity concerns in the process of urban planning. In urban discourses of climate justice, there is recognition of the differential vulnerability, responsibility and ability of multiple forms of community within the city in relation to climate change (Bulkeley, 2013). Furthermore, there is a need to move beyond ideal types or principles to consider how climate interventions may serve to reproduce or challenge existing inequalities in the city, producing or enhancing forms of social stratification (Marino and Ribot, 2012). For transferring and engaging scientific and policy aspects to the actual people at risk, research on societal vulnerability is vital to address adequate risk reduction strategies in order to entail resilience to changing climate. The PhD research will focus on social vulnerability within urban climate adaptation processes.