The Social and Behavioural Aspects of Climate Change : Linking Vulnerability, Adaptation and Mitigation

If you had suffered the ordeal of being stranded in flood hit Swat last summer, you are unlikely to choose it as your vacation destination in the future. We keep adapting our behaviour to changes in our environment, based on our past experiences. Climatic change, the result of rapid technological innovations and industrial growth, is one phenomenon that is impacting our quality of life drastically. It is causing social and behavioural adaptations on all levels – government, business, societal and personal. Governments are at pains to introduce and implement legislation that will either stop environmental damage or mitigate it. Businesses often partner with NGOs to positively impact the environment and society in which they operate or try to develop their own ‘planet-friendly’ programs that serve the dual purpose of building a socially responsible image. We even choose our leisure activities and vacation destinations in the light of climatic conditions.

Awareness of global warming, greenhouse emission reductions, the search for alternate fuel ? people all over the world are trying to combat climatic change in many ways. The book ‘The Social and Behavioural Aspects of Climate Change’ is a compilation of researches funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research, and edited by Pim Martens and Chiung Ting Chang highlighting the multitude of ways in which we are trying to modify our lives and business practices. The research focused on four themes: vulnerability to climatic change, adaptation, mitigation and adaptation-plus-mitigation efforts. By studying industries, institutions and local communities, the researchers have been able to highlight the need for cooperation between these players and effective and sustainable adaptation and mitigation measures.

Even though this book incorporates diagrams, tables and frameworks that make it more appropriate for business consultants and researchers, students of environmental studies, business, hotel management and even architecture will also find it highly relevant. As a compilation of research papers, it is surprisingly easy to read and understand.

Pakistan: on the Frontlines of Climatic Disasters

I found certain sections of the book highly relevant to our situation in Pakistan. For instance the vulnerability assessment framework is a necessary tool for our region ? ‘those most vulnerable to climate change are often those already socioeconomically disadvantaged in society’. Our society in general is community-based, and so the research on how vital the local knowledge, creativity and organisation of local communities is for adaptability and success in coping with climate change is important for us. This question has been studied in the light of community adaptations following floods in Nicaragua, Mozambique and the Netherlands. Flooding has plagued Pakistan since its inception, and the recent massive devastation due to monsoon floods makes it important for us to study whether it has had long-term effects on people?s preferences and survival strategies as well as the short-term effects of damaging their resource base.

Tourism & Climate Change

Similarly, the impact on tourism has been researched with reference to coastal areas. Choosing the ‘sun, sea and sand’ seems to be highly dependant on variations in weather conditions. In Pakistan, the Northern Regions are tourist hotspots that have always been plagued by landslides, out-of-season snowfall and flooding. Hazardous roads hamper accessibility and air travel is rendered unreliable due to the weather conditions in mountainous regions. Add to that, the sudden formation of lakes due to global warming and land sliding that blocks roads and food supplies, and you have the perfect tourist nightmare. Vulnerability assessment of the Pakistani tourism industry is essential.

Also pertinent is the chapter on energy conservation in Dutch housing projects. Given the energy crisis that is worsening daily in Pakistan, it is important for architects, businesses and individuals to realize that energy efficient buildings will dramatically reduce the need for cooling and heating appliances ? while reducing greenhouse emissions.

Of course, for Pakistani businesses involved in international trade, it is important also to be aware of international legislation regarding climate change. Being aware of these legal requirements can possibly benefit us when the choices relate to ‘the distribution of climate change impacts and financial burdens between generations, countries and sectors’.

Finally this book highlights themes for future researches. Given that mitigation and adaptation are mismatched spatially and temporally, it is difficult for people to assess the long-term impacts of their adaptation strategies. Also, the question of ‘who pays, who gains’ is highly relevant to societies like ours who have much lower emissions as compared to developed countries yet are most vulnerable to climate change. Change has to come from within willing and innovative communities, in cooperation with institutions such as businesses, governments and NGOs. We need to identify such sustainable adaptation and mitigation strategies for sustainable economic growth.

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Author Information

Sadaf Azhar, an avid reader, enjoys ethics and history-related literature. She strives to find the time to contribute to periodicals and holds an MBA from the Institute of Business Administration. She currently lives in Chunnia Cantt, Kasur with her young family.

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