Saturday, June 20, 2009

New study looks at household responses to climate impacts

Science Blog: While climate change has been an emerging topic of interest to the world community, little scientific data exists on the vulnerability and resilience of households to climate-related “shocks” and events like more intense hurricanes and prolonged drought. But now, a Baylor University researcher has explored various means by which individuals and communities are responding to weather and climate change.

Dr. Sara Alexander, an applied social anthropologist at Baylor who conducts much of her research work in Central America, studied different households in several large and small coastal communities in Belize. Alexander and her team identified vulnerable households in these tourism-dependent communities and examined how they adapted and coped with major climate events and shocks like hurricanes and floods. The Baylor researchers also measured each household’s long-term resilience, an area that has not been extensively researched, and identified different behaviors and strategies that lead some families to cope better and emerge stronger after a weather-related event.

…Alexander and her team developed a resilience-measuring index for human responses that examined certain long-term security indicators, including economic stability, health, education, social networks, environment and nutrition. The researchers then tracked those indicators as different weather-related events naturally occur. The results show:

• Perception about climate change and weather patterns played a key role in determining whether a household prepares adequately for a harsh weather event. …

• Vulnerable and more secure households differ in coping strategies when dealing with weather-related events. Those households that are considered vulnerable and not materialistic more often turn to their family, friends and faith for emotional support, but not to financially-based responses. Those households who have higher levels of security are more likely to use their savings or sell their assets to engage in a financially based response by repairing and rebuilding, many times finding emotional support through this work….

The Hautamäki farm in the village of Villuri in Dagsmark, Lappfjärd parish of Finland, around 1950. From the family album, owned by Harri Blomberg. Wikimedia Commons, under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2

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