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Vulnerability, Adaptation, and Maladaptation to Climate Change

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The IOWC podcast team interviews Dr. Lisa Schipper (University of Oxford) an Environmental Social Science Research Fellow at the Environmental Change Institute (ECI). Dr. Schipper’s research explores the inter-linkages between climate change and human development, as she seeks to address the question of whether fair and just development is possible in a changing climate.

Our discussion covers Dr. Schipper’s exploration of vulnerabilities to climate change that exist in communities in the developing world. She argues that socio-cultural dimensions of vulnerability –such as gender, culture, religion, etc. – relate to structural inequalities of power, justice and equity; ultimately leading to mosaics of different levels of climate change vulnerability within each stand-alone community. Dr. Schipper delves into how the Covid-19 pandemic and its economic, social, and political impacts have increased vulnerabilities throughout the developing world, as well as how downfalls of short-term climate change adaptation strategies, and maladaptation to climate change, have only emphasized existing vulnerabilities within specific communities. Moreover, as a current coordinating lead author of Chapter 18 of the Working Group 2 Contribution to the 6th assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Dr. Schipper delves into the problematic attitude of prioritizing scientific and quantitative data over qualitative data of the human experience in climate change reporting. She warns of the simplification and misunderstandings that are frequently engendered by focusing solely on the numeric values of climate change instead of truly fleshing out the complexities that exist among human beings experiencing vulnerability to climate change. Finally, Dr. Schipper touches on the effects of the frequent exclusion of female voices and voices from the global south, particularly in African countries, from the academic echo chamber. She argues that this form of gatekeeping excludes different perspectives, and perhaps solutions, to the rapidly changing climate.

Image via Pexels

This podcast was produced with the help of Renée Manderville (Project Manager, IOWC), Archisman Chaudhuri and Philip Gooding (both postdoctoral fellows, IOWC, McGill).