Climate Change and Human Security

Climate Change and Human Security

The Challenge to Local Governance under Rapid Coastal Urbanization

Michael R. Redclift, David Manuel-Navarette and Mark Pelling

The challenge presented by climate change is, by its nature, global. The populations of the Mexican Caribbean, the focus of this book, are faced by everyday decisions not unlike those in the urban North. The difference is that for the people of the Mexican Caribbean evidence of the effects of climate change, including hurricanes, is very familiar to them. This important study documents the choices and risks of people who are powerless to change the economic development model which is itself forcing climate change.

Chapter 2: The Dynamics of Coastal Urbanization

Michael R. Redclift, David Manuel-Navarette and Mark Pelling

Subjects: environment, climate change, environmental geography, environmental governance and regulation, environmental politics and policy, environmental sociology, politics and public policy, environmental politics and policy, european politics and policy, urban and regional studies, urban studies


INTRODUCTION Urbanization and climate change are arguably the two most important global phenomena currently shaping future risks and opportunities for human well-being and ecological integrity. Both dynamic processes are symptoms of deeper challenges in global and local political economies (Harvey, 2010). The conjunction of urbanization and climate change is set to be a major theme for development and environmental management in the coming century. This is especially so in coastal zones, which are among the most productive and hazard-prone environments in the world (Michel and Pandya, 2010). This chapter explores patterns of coastal urbanization and looks inside cities to explore the governance and socioeconomic conditions that determine the social and spatial distribution of vulnerability, loss and adaptation to climate-change-associated extreme events. We also touch on mitigation, slower climatic trends and creeping risks when relevant to the central discussion on adaptation to extremes. These slower impacts are more amenable to established planning processes, although it may be that no action is taken until slow trends (for example in drinking water, sea-level rise, temperature or disease vector risks) come close to or cross critical thresholds generating disastrous catalysts for policy change (Pelling, 2010a). Urbanization and climate change are together reshaping landscapes of risk and human security (Bicknell et al., 2009). The expansion of urban settlements into hazard-prone coastal environments (hill slopes, river banks, tidal zones etc.) and local environmental change (deforestation of hill slopes, loss of productive agricultural land and coastal ecosystems as cities expand) generates new hazards. Increased ‘concretization’ in cities...

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