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Understanding climate change risk and vulnerability in northern forest-based communities
- Davidson, D.J., Williamson, T., Parkins, J.R.
- Canadian journal of forest research = 2003 v.33 no.11 pp. 2252-2261
- climate change, risk assessment, boreal forests, environmental impact, social impact, forestry, forest industries, deforestation, forest policy, economic outlook and situation, economic impact, decision making, rural areas, rural society
- Much research attention regarding climate change has been focused on the macrophysical and, to a lesser extent, the macrosocial features of this phenomenon. An important step in mitigation and adaptation will be to examine the ways that climate change risks manifest themselves in particular social localities. Certain social groups may be at greater risk, not solely because of their geographic location in a region of high climate sensitivity but also because of economic, political, and cultural characteristics. Combining the insights of economics and sociology, we provide an ideal-type model of northern forest-based communities that suggests that these communities may represent a particularized social context in regard to climate change. Although scientific research indicates that northern forest ecosystems are among those regions at greatest risk to the impacts of climate change, the social dimensions of these communities indicate both a limited community capacity and a limited potential to perceive climate change as a salient risk issue that warrants action. Five features of forest-based communities describe this context in further detail: (i) the constraints on adaptability in rural, resource-dependent communities to respond to risk in a proactive manner, (ii) the national and international identification of deforestation as a central causal mechanism in the political arena, (iii) the nature of commercial forestry investment planning and management decision-making, (iv) the potential by members of these communities to underestimate the risk associated with climate change, and (v) the multiplicity of climate change risk factors in forest-based communities.