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Is Education a Key to Reducing Vulnerability to Natural Disasters and hence Unavoidable Climate Change?

Raya Muttarak, Wittgenstein Centre for Demography and Global Human Capital (IIASA, VID/ÖAW and WU), International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis
Wolfgang Lutz, Wittgenstein Centre for Demography and Global Human Capital (IIASA, VID/ÖAW and WU), International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-06476-190142

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Abstract

The collection of articles in this Special Feature is part of a larger project on “Forecasting Societies’ Adaptive Capacity to Climate Change” (an Advanced Grant of the European Research Council to Wolfgang Lutz). In investigating how global change will affect population vulnerability to climate variability and extremes, the project aims to help develop strategies that enable societies to better cope with the consequences of climate change. In doing so, the basic hypothesis being tested is that societies can develop the most effective long-term defense against the dangers of climate change by strengthening human capacity, primarily through education. Education can directly influence risk perception, skills and knowledge and indirectly reduce poverty, improve health and promote access to information and resources. Hence, when facing natural hazards or climate risks, educated individuals, households and societies are assumed to be more empowered and more adaptive in their response to, preparation for, and recovery from disasters. Indeed the findings from eleven original empirical studies set in diverse geographic, socioeconomic, cultural and hazard contexts provide consistent and robust evidence on the positive impact of formal education on vulnerability reduction. Highly educated individuals and societies are reported to have better preparedness and response to the disasters, suffered lower negative impacts, and are able to recover faster. This suggests that public investment in empowering people and enhancing human capacity through education can have a positive externality in reducing vulnerability and strengthening adaptive capacity amidst the challenges of a changing climate.

Key words

adaptive capacity; climate change; differential vulnerability; education; human capital; natural disasters
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087