Livelihoods impacted by climate change - GulfToday

Livelihoods impacted by climate change

Meena Janardhan

Writer/Editor/Consultant. She has over 25 years of experience in the fields of environmental journalism and publishing.

Writer/Editor/Consultant. She has over 25 years of experience in the fields of environmental journalism and publishing.

Livelihoods impacted by climate change

A recent report on climate change has suggested that farmers are the most vulnerbale to climate change. Reuters

A study by the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Guwahati has found that farmers are the most sensitive to climate change, followed by drivers and street food sellers in the city’s urban setting.

These occupations were found to be most vulnerable to climate change impacts in the northeastern city, while doctors are the least vulnerable. The study incorporates society and science to assess and help urban planning. It points out that it is extremely essential to explain climate change impacts on a very small scale, challenging planners and decision-makers in providing location and ecology-specific solutions.

Global climatic models and climatic predictions fail to do so very often. The study tries to plug this gap by incorporating the voices of the people. This viewpoint is especially important in cities like Guwahati, where urbanization is threatening eco-sensitive areas.

Stating that there is a dearth of studies on climate change based vulnerabilities of the urban people, the study tested three different approaches –the Livelihood Vulnerability Index (LVI), the LVI IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) models and the Climate Vulnerability Index (CVI) to estimate climate change vulnerability of urban communities from various livelihoods in Guwahati city, Assam, India.

Called the gateway to the seven North Eastern states of India, Guwahati is therefore strategically very important for this region. A structured survey was conducted involving 200 stakeholders from various livelihood sectors, mostly construction workers, perishable item sellers, farmers, taxi/auto drivers/rickshaw pullers/coolies, tea stall/fast food sellers, gas cylinder deliverymen, street vendors/salespersons, traffic police/police, doctors and boatmen.

Doctors were found to be the least vulnerable owing to their higher levels of awareness and adaptive capacity. These results reiterated the importance of awareness and access to resources in regulating vulnerability.

The World Food Programme’s Occasional Paper No. 26 on ‘Social protection and climate change’ sets out a vision of how social protection can support households to face climate change. In its Executive Summary, it highlights that knowledge on how social protection can both increase resilience to climate change of the most vulnerable and achieve poverty reduction is key to pursuing policies that frame adaptation in terms of social justice.

It stresses the need for new climate change adaptation programmes that should be tailored to the country or regional context. However, the paper adds that while adapting to climate change is essential, it does not mean that people should exit traditional livelihoods which are considered climate-sensitive.

Elsewhere, across the globe, the United Nations Development Programme has said more than 200 million Africans who rely solely on the blue economy are facing a realistic challenge of resource depletion because of the adverse effects of climate change. It has stressed that it was imperative that many countries in Africa strike a delicate balance between the desire to exploit their blue economies for sustenance and benefit of local people as well as keeping the marine ecosystem intact.

For example, despite having one of the lowest emissions levels, the Sahel region is expected to be among the worst affected by climate change. Coupled with 2.8% population growth each year, millions of people there are facing a grave threat to their livelihoods. The Asian Development Bank has pointed out that Myanmar is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate and disaster risk, and people living in the country’s rural areas face the greatest threat, given the lack of development and climate resilience there. Cyclones and frequent floods across Bangladesh have negatively affected the lives and livelihoods of coastal population.

Research led by the University of East Anglia (UEA) suggests that male migration and poor working conditions for women combine with institutional failure or poverty to hamper women’s ability to adapt to climate variability and change in Asia and Africa.

The study, published in the journal ‘Nature Climate Change’, involved researchers from the UK, Nepal, India, Pakistan and South Africa. Drawing on data from 25 case studies across hotspots in Asia (India, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Tajikistan) and Africa (Kenya, Ghana, Namibia, Mali, Ethiopia, Senegal), the study shows how and in what ways women’s agency, or ability to make meaningful choices and strategic decisions, contributes to adaptation responses.

It argues that environmental stress weakens women’s agency even when household structures and social norms are supportive, or legal entitlements available. This leads to household strategies that place increasing responsibilities and burdens on women, especially those who are young, less educated, and belonging to lower classes, or marginal castes and ethnicities.