In the international literature on climate change there is an emerging concern that the negative effects of climate change will be disproportionately experienced by those who are economically and socially disadvantaged, further widening the gap between them and more advantaged population groups. However, the relationship between climate change impact and social disadvantage remains little investigated. This study has sought to contribute to this gap by adding to the small body of empirical knowledge of the vulnerability and adaptive capacity of disadvantaged groups in Australia in the face of impending adverse impacts of climate change.
The study provides a discussion of the historical and future climate trends and its implications for the population. However, it goes on to discuss the concept of social vulnerability in the international literature and to show that at the local level population vulnerability to climate change is more likely to be defined by the socio-economic differences in the community, than by environmental impact.
Adding to the wide discussion of the concept and operationalization of climate vulnerability this study adapted an approach of developing a measure of social exclusion as a way of measuring social vulnerability and adaptive capacity. The study uses ABS 2011 Population Census data to measure social vulnerability at LGA level. It also uses quantitative data collected from 1800 CATI interviews in three contrasting communities in South Australia (Port Pirie, Port Adelaide Enfield and Berri/Barmera), as well as qualitative data from 57 in-depth face-to-face interviews with disadvantaged households, and 13 interviews with the main stakeholders in these LGAs.
Using ABS 2011 Census data, the study maps separate indicators, as well as the composite index of social exclusion across the LGAs in South Australia to identify the areas with the highest level of social exclusion. It then uses the concept of social exclusion to study vulnerability of disadvantaged groups to the impact of climate change at household level.
The results of the quantitative and qualitative data analyses provide a deeper understanding of the characteristics of social exclusion among disadvantaged groups, as well as of the associations between disadvantage, social exclusion and vulnerability of households in South Australia. The implications of these findings are discussed in the context of potential policy interventions to enhance resilience and decrease the negative impacts of climate change for disadvantaged groups.
By: Arusyak Sevoyan, Graeme Hugo, Helen Feist, George Tan, Kelly McDougall, Yan Tan and John Spoehr