Social vulnerability, risk perception and adaptation
Social vulnerability is a measure of the sensitivity of a population to climate change impacts and its ability to respond to and recover from the impacts of environmental hazards. It is considered to mirror the geographies of inequality. As public agencies are increasingly seeking tools to understand inequity in exposure and decide distribution of prevention funds, aggregated indicators of vulnerability are being considered as equity measures. However, such indices rely on single-axis frameworks with the underlying assumptions that a deficit in one dimension of vulnerability can be offset (or compensated) by a surplus in another. More recently, the intersectionality perspective has been gaining traction to offer a more nuanced mapping of vulnerability and thereby overcome binary categorizations of vulnerable groups. Furthermore, recent studies have shown that socially vulnerable communities have lower levels of self-protection and risk knowledge, and consequently are implementing lower levels of adaptation. The bedrock assumption in risk communication that positively links risk communication to risk awareness and risk-mitigating behaviour has to be challenged. There are many reasons why at-risk people may not act on risk information. Elevated awareness of risks does not always translate into adaptive actions because individuals may not have access to the necessary resources. For vulnerable communities, the message does not resonate with their lived reality or they are too preoccupied with daily needs.