Household vulnerability to climate change in a rural Chinese county: does the local state matter?
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Abstract© 2014 Dr. Sarah Rogers
The aim of this thesis is to understand the vulnerability of rural households to climate change in China and the influence of local government on that vulnerability. To achieve this aim, two research questions are addressed: 1) in what ways are rural households vulnerable to climate change?; and 2) in what ways does local government influence rural household vulnerability to climate change? The thesis applies a sustainable livelihoods approach to examining household vulnerability and is further informed by theories of vulnerability to climate change and theories of central-local government relations in China. It posits that local governments influence the vulnerability of rural households by mediating their access to livelihood assets and activities, and by shaping their coping and adaptive strategies. The research questions are addressed through the analysis of data collected in four apple-producing villages – two wealthier and two poorer – in a case study county called Jixian. Jixian is a nationally designated poverty county that lies on the Loess Plateau in Shanxi Province. The methods used are primarily qualitative: semi-structured interviews and direct observation, supported by secondary data collection. The thesis finds that all households in all villages are vulnerable to climate change due to water insecurity, but that some are more vulnerable than others as a result of differential access to land. Households in wealthier villages have better access to land such that they are better able to cope with climatic stress than households in poorer villages. In relation to local government influence, it is the county government that has the most influence through its allocation of resources to villages. Resource allocation is done in such a way as to favour the two wealthier, more developed villages, thus amplifying existing differences in access to resources between villages. Yet the county government’s influence on vulnerability is far from absolute, as the major drivers of household vulnerability in Jixian, which are access to land and water, lie beyond its control.
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