From Drought in California to the Global Framework for Climate Services: Narratives and Lived Experiences of Climate Vulnerability
AuthorGreene, Christina Y.
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction, presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractVulnerability to climate is understood to be the product of the interactions between climate hazards and social processes that mitigate the sensitivity and the capacity to cope and adapt to change. Despite decades of research on climate vulnerability, there are many challenges in identifying climate impacts and vulnerabilities. This challenge is especially salient for the human dimensions of drought. Droughts are frequently identified and monitored through biophysical indicators, overlooking the ways in which physical and social processes produce drought vulnerabilities. Two ways to analyze the production of climate vulnerability is through an examination of people’s lived experiences with climate hazards and through narratives of vulnerability. Lived experiences of vulnerability can identify climate impacts on the multiple dimensions of life and well-being. Narratives of vulnerability provide insight into local knowledges of the interactions between society and environment, which often frame climate adaptation options. My research examines climate vulnerability, both experienced materially in day-to-day life and also in the different ways in which both people and institutions narrate climate vulnerability. I analyze the experience of farmworkers and rural communities during the 2012-2016 drought in California’s agriculturally prolific San Joaquin Valley. I then examine vulnerability narratives in two different contexts 1) California drought and 2) a global case study of international climate services, the Global Framework for Climate Services. Specifically, this research explores 1) the impacts of drought on farmworkers and rural communities, 2) the socioeconomic processes and feedbacks in the agricultural system that shape drought vulnerability for farmworkers and rural agricultural communities, and 3) how narratives at the local level (San Joaquin Valley) and at the international climate services institutional level (the Global Framework for Climate Services), frame climate vulnerability. I utilize a mixed methods approach of semi-structured interviews, participant observation, household surveys, crop data analysis, and discourse analysis of policy documents. I find that the drought impacts on farmworkers and rural communities are multi-dimensional, affecting both livelihoods and indicators of well-being such as food security, water security, and health. Additionally, the vulnerability of farmworkers is different than those experienced by farmers. During the drought, farmers were able to adapt by switching to high-value crops and increasing groundwater pumping, which exacerbated the vulnerability of farmworkers and rural residents. This demonstrates that vulnerability in food and agricultural systems are differential, and that actions by one actor shift vulnerabilities onto other actors in the system. In the California case study, I also identify three major narratives of drought vulnerability. These vulnerability narratives are Drought as Environmental Regulation, Drought as Agricultural Inequity, and Drought as Rural Poverty. A fourth narrative, Drought as Physical Climate, is also identified, however it is largely given little agency in local explanations of drought vulnerability. An examination of the narratives of drought vulnerability in the San Joaquin Valley demonstrates that vulnerability is constructed primarily as a social and economic process, one that is framed by perspectives on historical events and desired place-based socioecological futures. Finally, an examination of narratives of vulnerability in the Global Framework for Climate Services demonstrates that different framings of vulnerability manifest into very different approaches to climate adaption. The first framing, exposure driven vulnerability, characterizes vulnerability as exposure to environmental hazards and overlooks the complex social processes that contribute to vulnerability. In the second framing, coupled vulnerability, vulnerability is understood as the product of both climate hazards and economic and social processes to produce differential impacts. This dissertation makes several contributions to the geography literature on vulnerability. The first contribution is an analysis of the climate vulnerability of labor, which remains a big gap in the climate vulnerability literature. The second area of contribution to vulnerability scholarship is the California drought as an empirical case study of shifting and dynamic vulnerabilities. Finally, I contribute two cases to the modest literature on the narratives of climate vulnerability, demonstrating how from the local (California communities) to the global (GFCS) different perceptions and discourses of vulnerability lead to different explanations of the causes and impacts of drought, and thus to different policy solutions and adaptation actions.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Degree GrantorUniversity of Arizona
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