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Changes in mortality and economic vulnerability to climatic hazards under economic development at the provincial level in China

Wu, Jidong, Li, Ying, Ye, Tao, Li, Ning
Regional environmental change 2019 v.19 no.1 pp. 125-136
climate change, economic development, financial economics, income, landscapes, mortality, China
Studies have reported that economic development can contribute to reducing vulnerability to natural hazards. However, there exist considerable variations in the association between economic growth and vulnerability, especially at the sub-country scale. Based on climatic hazard impact (indicated by mortality and direct economic losses (DEL)) and economic development data for 31 provinces in the mainland of China from 1990 to 2015, trends of disaster impact, and trends of vulnerability (indicated by mortality rate and DEL rate), were detected using the Mann–Kendall trend test at the provincial level. Next, the relationship between income and vulnerability was characterized. At the provincial level during 1990–2015, there was a clear transformation of the climatic hazard impact landscape from high average annual mortality to high average annual DEL. Both the mortality and the DEL rates presented downward trends for most provinces. The magnitude of vulnerability decrease was higher in the economically developed provinces compared to the underdeveloped provinces, and vulnerability declined nonlinearly with income increase. A vulnerability trap appears to exist approximately below 1600 US$ for income—above this threshold, a province’s vulnerability significantly decreased. Mortality and economic vulnerability to climatic hazards are correlated with economic development, but causal links between economic development and vulnerability reduction need further investigation. Our findings suggest that shortening the transitional period from the low-income trap and reducing inter-provincial disparity of economic development may be powerful tools for reducing vulnerability to climatic hazards, especially for economically underdeveloped regions. These should also be important considerations in developing efficient adaption strategies for climate change.