Social Vulnerability to Climate Change and the Architecture of Entitlements

Adger, W. N. and Kelly, P. M. (1999) Social Vulnerability to Climate Change and the Architecture of Entitlements. Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, 4. pp. 253-266.

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The objective of this paper is to outline a conceptual model of vulnerability to climate change as the first step in appraising and understanding the social and economic processes which facilitate and constrain adaptation. Vulnerability as defined here pertains to individuals and social groups. It is the state of individuals, of groups, of communities defined in terms of their ability to cope with and adapt to any external stress placed on their livelihoods and well-being. This proposed approach puts the social and economic well-being of society at the centre of the analysis, thereby reversing the central focus of approaches to climate impact assessment based on impacts on and the adaptability of natural resources or ecosystems and which only subsequently address consequences for human well-being. The vulnerability or security of any group is determined by the availability of resources and, crucially, by the entitlement of individuals and groups to call on these resources. This perspective extends the concept of entitlements developed within neoclassical and institutional economics. Within this conceptual framework, vulnerability can be seen as a socially-constructed phenomenon influenced by institutional and economic dynamics. The study develops proxy indicators of vulnerability related to the structure of economic relations and the entitlements which govern them, and shows how these can be applied to a District in coastal lowland Vietnam. This paper outlines the lessons of such an approach to social vulnerability for the assessment of climate change at the global scale. We argue that the socio-economic and biophysical processes that determine vulnerability are manifest at the local, national, regional and global level but that the state of vulnerability itself is associated with a specific population. Aggregation from one level to another is therefore not appropriate and global-scale analysis is meaningful only in so far as it deals with the vulnerability of the global community itself.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Funding by the UK Economic and Social Research Council, Global Environmental Change Programme, under the project ‘Socio-economic and Physical Approaches to Vulnerability to Climate Change in Vietnam’ (Award No. L320253240) is gratefully acknowledged. We thank Siri Eriksen, Andrew Jordan, Mike Hulme and colleagues at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Workshop, ‘Adaptation to Climate Variability and Change’, San José, Costa Rica, April 1998 for helpful comments while retaining full responsibility for this final version.
Uncontrolled Keywords: climate variability, vulnerability, socio-economic indicators, institutional analysis, social Vietnam.
Author Affiliation: 1Centre for Social and Economic Research on the Global Environment and 2Climatic Research Unit, School of Environmental Sciences, University of East Anglia, Norwich, NR4 7TJ, UK
Subjects: Atmosperic Science
Divisions: General
Depositing User: Mr Siva Shankar
Date Deposited: 21 Jun 2012 11:16
Last Modified: 21 Jun 2012 11:17

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