Climate change is expected to produce winners and losers – for example, melting ice-caps may open up new economic opportunities for Greenland
at the same time as sea-level rise threatens Asia’s bourgeoning coastal mega-cities
. The same can be said about plans to address climate change
, from both the mitigation and adaptation perspectives. A special issue of Global Environmental Change
, “Adding Insult to Injury: Climate Change, Social Stratification, and the Inequalities of Intervention
,” takes on this topic, with two case studies providing particularly compelling evidence.
Betsy Beymer-Farris and Thomas Bassett argue in their contribution, “The REDD Menace: Resurgent Protectionism in Tanzania’s Mangrove Forests,” that efforts to ensure REDD readiness in Tanzania have placed local communities at risk of forced evictions, shattered livelihoods, and persecution by both the state and conservation community. Contrary to dominant narratives that “portray local resources users, the Warufiji, in negative terms as recent migrants who are destroying the mangrove forests,” the authors say that they in fact depend upon “allow[ing] the mangroves to regenerate naturally while preparing new rice fields.” “To carbon traders, however, an uninhabited forest greatly simplifies the logistical tasks of monitoring and paying for ecosystem services,” assert the authors. This has resulted in declaration of local communities as squatters, illegally invading the forest. Government officials have repeatedly voiced threats of eviction. As well as increasing the potential for social tension, the study concludes that, “it is difficult to reconcile Tanzania REDD’s participatory and benefit sharing goals with the rhetoric, practices, and plans of the Tanzanian state.”
In “Accessing Adaptation: Multiple Stressors on Livelihoods in the Bolivian Highlands Under a Changing Climate,” Julia McDowell and Jeremy Hess present evidence about how specifically-tailored adaptations to climate change risk increasing vulnerability to a complex web of other, less obvious stressors. The study draws evidence from the livelihoods of historically marginalized indigenous farmers in highland Bolivia. The authors, who see “adaptation as part of ongoing livelihoods strategies,” use the case to “explore the tradeoffs that households make when adjustments to one stressor compromise the ability to adjust to another.” For instance, socio-economic stressors have forced many farmers to more closely couple their livelihoods with the market economy by growing more cash crops, intensifying land use, participating in off-farm laboring, and relying on irrigated agriculture. However, the shift to more market-orientated livelihoods has also increased their sensitivity to climatic stress. “As stressors compounded, the ability to mobilize assets became constrained, making adaptation choices highly interdependent, and sometimes contradictory,” the authors write. Avoiding these sorts of lose-lose situations, requires “ensuring sustained access to assets, rather than designing interventions solely to protect against a specific stressor.”