The Social Dimension of Adaptation to Climate Change
Workshop DetailsThe International workshop on the "Social Dimension of Adaptation to Climate Change" was organized on 18-19 February 2010 in Venice, Italy. Over 30 participants from very different disciplines and backgrounds (e.g. academia, development practitioners) joined this workshop, including representatives from OECD, WB, UNISDR, UNICEF, IIED, DFID and Red Cross.This workshop was one of the first ones to discuss the social dimension of adaptation to climate change, including adaptive capacity, human behavior and cognitive capacity of individuals. The workshop focused on the following 3 key topics:
- The social and behavioural dimension as key factors to adapt to climate change;
- The flexibility of social systems in adapting to climate (institutional and social capability, multistakeholder engagement, including governments, NGOs, the private sector, communities, and individuals.)
- The learning capacity as a means to overcome behavioural and social constraints to changing technologies (development and adoption of new technologies).
Key points of the presentations/discussions are as follows:
- In recent years, in parallel with the predominant impact studies approach, a social science oriented approach has emerged. This approach, focused on investigating political, economic and social conditions making societies more vulnerable and susceptible to damage coming from environmental stresses, is more adapt to investigate aspects connected with social system dynamics and individuals’ behavior.
- The workshop contributes to underline the importance of the behavioral change and to identify factors affecting the capability of communities and individuals to adapt to climate change: people’s capacity to adapt is determined by societal and individual assets - encompassing quality and quantity of knowledge, labor, financial capital, and relational networks - and by affordable services - transport, access to credit, market conditions, recovery systems.
- Societies will be willing to accept change and to adopt styles of life and behaviors that reduce social-environmental vulnerabilities by improving adaptive capacities and resilience.
- The workshop has contributed to recall the attention on the relevance of the neglected "soft factors", by considering cultural habits, attitudes of people and the social context as crucial determinants of the capacity to adapt to changed climate conditions.
- Relevance of the social vulnerability studies, mostly bottom-up oriented, was highlighted, rather than the impact studies more focused on the physical manifestations of climate change. In order to understand which factors promote or hamper the adaptive capacity of different regions and communities, the social setting requires a deep analysis, especially in the South.