The politics of climate change, uncertainty and transformation in marginal environments
The scale and impacts of climate change remain deeply uncertain. This is particularly true at the local level, where climate related uncertainties combined with unequal capitalist growth trajectories often exacerbate social and political inequities and the vulnerabilities of marginalised communities. Policy makers and scientists tend to draw on quantitative assessments, models and scenario building to understand and capture uncertainty. But these are often disconnected from how local people – particularly those living at the margins – make sense of and cope with uncertainty. This paper focuses on diverse and contested framings of climate change and uncertainty in three sites in South Asia (dryland Kutch, the Sundarbans delta and coastal Mumbai). It looks at how uncertainty is understood and experienced from ‘below’ by the lived experiences of local people, how it is conceptualised and represented from ‘above’ by climate scientists and experts and how the ‘middle’ – civil society, NGOs, academics – can potentially function as brokers between the ‘below’ and ‘above’. Uncertainty can be epistemic, ontological and linked to broader political economy conditions. Often official efforts to deal with uncertainty are highly policiticised and can increase the vulnerabilities of marginalised groups. While uncertainty can lead to anxieties about the future, I conclude by exploring whether it can also provide an opportunity to create transformation and structural change in marginal environments characterised by climate related uncertainties.
This event is part of the Social Life of Climate Change Seminar Series.
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