Concepts and Cases
New Horizons in Environmental Economics series
Edited by Matthias Ruth and María E. Ibarrarán
Chapter 8: Climate Information, Equity and Vulnerability Reduction
Pablo Suarez, Jesse C. Ribot and Anthony G. Patt INTRODUCTION The last few decades have brought about a heightened awareness of the effects of climate change. We now know that climate change can increase the risk of natural disasters. Recent advances in science and technology now provide us with more reliable forecasting tools (Wang et al. 2004). Because these new tools hold great promise for reducing vulnerability, massive financial, technological and human resources are being invested in their development. Possible predictions from these tools range from short-term tropical cyclone tracks to shifts in rainfall patterns due to climate change. Humanity faces two new challenges: not just preparing for the foreseeable climate, but also modifying decision-making processes to incorporate information now available for vulnerability reduction (Brunner 1999). Researchers and practitioners often disagree on how to define vulnerability (Ionescu et al. 2004) and how climate information can affect it. Vulnerability is broadly defined as the ability to be harmed. There are numerous concepts on vulnerability – depending on what people or systems are vulnerable to (Patt et al. 2005a). There are two major approaches to addressing this issue: vulnerability to hazard (for example, droughts) and vulnerability to outcomes (for example, famines). This distinction has profound implications regarding the appropriate policy, and resulting strategy, to reduce vulnerability. Climate information can be used to reduce the negative effects of expected changes (Dilley 2000). However, mere availability is not a sufficient condition to ensure reduction in the vulnerability of all sectors of the population and the...