Vulnerability to Poverty and Vulnerability to Climate Change: Conceptual Framework, Measurement and Synergies in Policy

K.S. Kavi Kumar, Richard J.T. Klein, Cezar Ionescu, Jochen Hinkel, Rupert Klein
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This paper attempts to compare the concepts and metrics related to vulnerability notion as used in the poverty literature with those in the filed of climate change. Such comparison could shed light on the understanding of the perceived and real differences between the two fields and also help to identify possible policy synergies between the climate change and poverty communities.
The analysis shows that while vulnerability concepts in both the disciplines are defendable, broader policy relevant statements about vulnerability could be made if the analysis clearly identifies three primitives introduced in Ionescu et al. (2006) namely, the entity that is vulnerable, the stimulus due to which the entity is vulnerable, and the preference criteria on the outcome of concern.
The analysis shows significant similarities between the two fields in terms of vulnerability measurement. The link between the vulnerability metrics in the two fields can be established through the introduction of sensitivity notion. The analysis also shows that the vulnerability metrics in both
fields demand a stricter restriction (namely, complete reorder) on preference criteria on the outcome(s) of concern.
The analysis identifies two issues that, if addressed, could create synergies between vulnerability assessments in the climate change and the poverty communities. First, the climate change community could benefit from exploring a notion analogous to that of poverty. In development policy, the notion of poverty enables one to recognise that there is a need to focus not only on people who are likely to become poor due to some exogenous input, but also on those who already are poor (and may become even poorer). Second, it would be interesting to explore the analogous concepts of mitigation and adaptive capacity in poverty research. Similar to their use in climate research and policy, the analysis of these concepts could lead to the more explicit consideration of the multidimensional nature of both causes and outcomes of poverty, as well as of the multiple time scales on which these occur.