Concepts and Cases
New Horizons in Environmental Economics series
Edited by Matthias Ruth and María E. Ibarrarán
Chapter 2: Vulnerability, Sensitivity and Coping/Adapting Capacity Worldwide
Elizabeth Malone and Antoinette Brenkert INTRODUCTION Tension exists between the need to conduct global analyses of climate change and the likely highly differentiated small-scale impacts of climate change. Because of the global nature of the issue – neither greenhouse gas concentrations nor global climate are regional or local phenomena – studies of greenhouse gas emissions and their impacts on the climate are essential to define the scope of the issue, especially to address issues of potential mitigation. However, since climatic impacts on natural and socio-economic systems are likely to be felt and responded to at regional and local levels, the heterogeneous conditions of individual societies necessitate more localized studies. Furthermore, the impacts of climate change will be different within any particular society, since rights and resources are unevenly distributed. Responses to the question of the appropriate research level – global, regional/country or local – have generally used one of two prevailing approaches. One approach is to conduct highly aggregated, quantitative studies of emissions and concentration levels. A second approach is to conduct disaggregated, often purely qualitative, case studies of single countries or localities. These different approaches have opened two gaps: an inability to compare countries and regions with regard to their resilience to climate change impacts, and a lack of studies that account for societal inequalities that will themselves be affected unequally by climate change. These gaps prevent decision-makers from carefully weighing options that have short- and long-term implications. Analyzing the relationships between exposure and sensitivity to climate change and climate variability, in addition...
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