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Industry, settlement and society

Publication date:
T. Wilbanks
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Climate change and sustainable development are linked through their interactions in industries, human settlements and society. This chapter emphasises that climate-change impacts, adaptation potentials and vulnerabilities are context-specific, related to the characteristics and development pathways of the location or sector involved. In the long run, climate change is likely to support sustainable development in some areas but endanger it in others, especially in areas with limited capacities to adapt. Underlying issues for industry, settlement and society are relationships between possible climate-change impact vulnerabilities and adaptation responses and broader processes of sustainable economic and social development, which suggest a need for a much greater emphasis on research that investigates such linkages.Key points made:

Climate change vulnerabilities of industry, settlement and society are mainly related to extreme weather events rather than to gradual climate change.

The significance of climate change (positive or negative) lies in its interactions with other non-climate sources of change and stress, and its impacts should be considered in such a multi-cause context.

Vulnerabilities to climate change depend considerably on specific geographic, sectoral and social contexts.

Vulnerabilities of industry, infrastructures, settlements and society to climate change are generally greater in certain high-risk locations, particularly coastal and riverine areas, and areas whose economies are closely linked with climatesensitive resources, such as agricultural and forest product industries, water demands and tourism.

Where extreme weather events become more intense and/or more frequent with climate change, the economic and social costs of those events will increase. Experience indicates that costs of major events can range from several percent of annual regional GDP and income generation in very large regions with very large economies to more than 25% in smaller areas that are affected by the events.

Poor communities can be especially vulnerable, in particular those concentrated in relatively high-risk areas.

Industry, settlements and society are often capable of considerable adaptation, depending heavily on the competence and capacity of individuals, communities, enterprises and local governments, together with access to financial and other resources.

Although most adaptations reflect local circumstances, adaptation strategies for industry and settlement and, to a lesser degree, for society, can be supported by linkages with national and global systems that increase potentials and resources for action.