Natural hazards and climate change: what knowledge is transferable?

TitleNatural hazards and climate change: what knowledge is transferable?
Publication TypeTyndall Working Paper
SeriesTyndall Centre Working Papers
Tyndall Consortium Institution


Secondary TitleTyndall Centre Working Paper 69
KeywordsChange, Natural hazards, transferable knowledge
AuthorsHurlston, L., and E. Tompkins
Year of Publication2005

This paper examines national government responses to hurricanes in the Caribbean, and considers what lessons can be learned for adapting to climate change. Climate change, which is expected to increase the unpredictability of weather-related hazards as well as change mean conditions, could exacerbate existing vulnerabilities. Little empirical evidence exists to guide national planners on how to adapt to climate change and there is some controversy about how to learn from past adaptation experiences, notably to hazards. This gap in knowledge is partly addressed in this paper through an investigation into the Cayman Islands’ Government’s response to hurricane risk over a 13 year period. Theories of policy change and hazards literature are used to explain the response strategy. Persuasion, exposure and collective action are found to be key components of the national response to hurricanes. These processes of adapting to natural hazards are found to be similar to those required for adapting to climate change hazards. The potential for learning by analogy is explored. It is found that the natural hazards literature can be heavily drawn upon to advise national government planners for climate change preparedness, and theories of policy change can usefully frame our understanding of the institutional learning processes which need to occur to embed past lessons in current practices. In conclusion the potential for learning by analogy is useful, however only when applied in similar or identical social or cultural contexts.

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