Rural households in a changing climate (ELDIS)

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Rural households in a changing climate

This World Bank policy research working paper investigates household-level strategies for adapting to climate change in rural settings, looking particularly at the adaptive capacity of poor rural households – a subject the authors claim has received little attention due to its broad and complex nature. The paper argues that climate change poses two distinct sets of challenges for rural households, which it broadly defines as ‘shocks’ and ‘shifts’:

  • shocks signify events that temporarily disrupt a household’s modal environmental conditions, i.e. increased weather variability, and increased frequency and severity of extreme weather events;
  • shifts permanently change the modal conditions, i.e. long-term shifts in temperature, rainfall patterns, water availability and other environmental factors.

Within this framework, the authors examine evidence from existing empirical literature on topics including: determinants of household economic mobility, ambiguity risk, agricultural technology adoption, reaction to weather-related information, determinants of migration, income diversification, health and past experiences of permanent environmental changes. They synthesise the evidence from this literature into a picture of household-level strategies for adapting to climate change in rural settings. The findings and conclusions include the following examples.



Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.