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Climate Change, Adaptation, and Formal Education: the Role of Schooling for Increasing Societies’ Adaptive Capacities in El Salvador and Brazil

Christine Wamsler, Centre for Sustainability Studies & Centre for Risk Assessment and Management, Lund University; Institute for Development Policy and Management (IDPM); Global Urban Research Centre
Ebba Brink
Oskari Rantala

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-04645-170202

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Abstract

With a worldwide increase in disasters, the effects of climate change are already being felt, and it is the urban poor in developing countries who are most at risk. There is an urgent need to better understand the factors that determine people’s capacity to cope with and adapt to adverse climate conditions. This paper examines the influence of formal education in determining the adaptive capacity of the residents of two low-income settlements: Los Manantiales in San Salvador (El Salvador) and Rocinha in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), where climate-related disasters are recurrent. In both case study areas, it was found that the average levels of education were lower for households living at high risk, as opposed to residents of lower risk areas. In this context, the influence of people’s level of education was identified to be twofold due to (a) its direct effect on aspects that reduce risk, and (b) its mitigating effect on aspects that increase risk. The results further suggest that education plays a more determinant role for women than for men in relation to their capacity to adapt. In light of these results, the limited effectiveness of institutional support identified by this study might also relate to the fact that the role of formal education has so far not been sufficiently explored. Promoting (improved access to and quality of) formal education as a way to increase people’s adaptive capacity is further supported with respect to the negative effects of disasters on people’s level of education, which in turn reduce their adaptive capacity, resulting in a vicious circle of increasing risk.

Key words

adaptation; adaptive capacity; Brazil; climate change; coping capacity; disaster; education; El Salvador; flood; income; informal settlement; landslide; risk reduction
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087