Book cover: The Impact of Climate Change on Vulnerable Populations
Open Access Edited Book

The Impact of Climate Change on Vulnerable Populations

Social Responses to a Changing Environment

Published: October 2023
Pages: 232
ISBN 978-3-0365-5504-1 (hardback); ISBN 978-3-0365-5503-4 (PDF) (registering DOI)
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Climate change and urban development threaten health, undermine coping and deepen existing social and environmental inequities. A changing global environment requires transformative social responses: new partnerships, deep engagement with local communities, and innovation to strengthen individual and collective assets.

The chapters of this edited volume have mainly been contributed by established and emerging scholars representing social work, sociology, development studies, law, government, social anthropology, urbanism, public policy, and other social sciences

This book is to be used for academics, policy makers, social work students, lecturers and other stakeholders to promote advocacy for vulnerable client groups affected by climate change. It gives some measure of hope and makes the invisible visible, allowing for change.


climate change; global environment; vulnerable populations; social care; human health; economic justice; sociology; urban studies


Published with the generous support of libraries working with Knowledge Unlatched.


  • The Social and Economic Inequalities of Climate Change Events on the Elderly, Disabled and Homeless Societies in the Caribbean (registering DOI)

    The are several vulnerable populations experiencing climate change events around the world that continue to threaten the health and well-being of some of the most susceptible populations in our society, such as, the elderly, the disabled, and the homeless. Although there are 100 million homeless people globally, overall, 1.6 billion people live without proper housing. Such hardship implies that this population group might be unable to effectively prepare, respond, and recover from climate change events. In the Caribbean, this group of people is at risk because of the volatile nature of climate change, such as, changing temperatures and catastrophic weather events, which may not be included in the design of mitigation plans. This presents a significant gap, as there is limited information in the literature that highlights the impact that climate change may have on these vulnerable groups existing in the Caribbean. This chapter seeks to fill this gap by discussing the social and economic inequalities that climate change events pose to elderly, disabled, and homeless individuals. By implementing a secondary research methodology, this study finds that in the Caribbean, these groups tend to lack financial and physical resources to respond and recover from climate change events due to their low income and the inequitable and inefficient dissemination of information on climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies. 

  • The Impact of Climate Change on Maternal and Child Health in the Caribbean (registering DOI)

    Maternal health concerns the well-being of women during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period. Climate change events often threaten maternal health because mothers and their offspring are more susceptible to environmental changes. In developing countries, 88% of children succumb to climate change-related deaths. The inherent vulnerability of mothers and their offspring to infections, illness, and malnourishment due to limited social services, healthcare, low household income, and dependency, are often to blame for the high mortality rate. Given that the literature on the impact of climate change events on maternal and child health in the Caribbean region is scarce, this chapter seeks to address this gap by using a secondary research approach. The impacts that climate change events in the Caribbean are likely to have on the maternal and child health of persons residing in flood-prone areas and coastal communities will be discussed. Like Nigeria, Ghana, and India, in the Caribbean, climate change events negatively impact the mortality of the mother and her child. The decline in the nutritional quality of food, amongst other health-related issues, also contributes to adverse pregnancy outcomes.

  • Conserve What Our Children Deserve: Environmental Hazards and Their Impacts on the Inhabitants of Rawalpindi, Pakistan (registering DOI)

    Climate change is one of the gravest issues encountered by humanity today resulting from serious environmental hazards that are acutely poisoning the natural ecosystem. This study endeavors to pinpoint the causes of environmental hazards and explain their detrimental effects on the climate. Using a qualitative approach, we investigated the attitudes of the local community and analyze their practices through the thematic analysis method, hoping to get a refined idea about the risks and community tactics involved in discerning the menace of environmental degradation. In-depth interviews are conducted in the local language with 60 respondents of Rawalpindi: healthcare professionals (10), janitors (10), transporters (10), restaurateurs (10), and the local population (20), which were later transcribed into English. The findings revealed that the major environmental hazards, air pollution, waste disposal, scarcity of clean water caused by factories and vehicles; poor waste disposal management; rapid urban population, wastage of water, and poor sewerage system have negative effects on the physical and psychological health of the people. This study shows that there is a dire need for the continuous process of planning and management by educationists and government officials to create awareness and mitigate the existing environmental hazards.

  • Resilience Hubs: A Climate Change Resource for Vulnerable Populations in the United States (registering DOI)

    The threat of climate change disproportionately impacts racial and ethnic minority communities in the United States. Communities experiencing environmental racism are more sensitive to the effects of social stressors such as lack of access to adequate and appropriate healthcare, education, and economic stability. As a result, these communities often have fewer social resources to both protect themselves and to recover and adapt from extreme weather events such as flooding, wildfires, hurricanes, poor air quality, and temperature extremes. Climate change exacerbates the historic, systemic oppression of vulnerable communities and worsens existing disparities resulting from cumulative environmental hazard exposure. Community resilience, in the context of climate change, is the capacity of a community to protect itself and to recover from disasters and cumulative burden via social infrastructure. Community resilience can be increased through physical structures which maximize social interactions via Resilience Hubs where residents can gather. Resilience Hubs strengthen community solidarity and offer aid to community members suffering from cumulative effects of climate change and climate disasters. This chapter discusses community-based Resilience Hubs as a method of addressing the disproportionate impact of climate change on vulnerable racial and ethnic minorities.

  • A Crisis within a Crisis: Climate Change and Gender-Based Violence (GBV) during the COVID-19 Pandemic in Trinidad and Tobago: A Narrative Review (registering DOI)

    Across the world, Stay at Home (SAH) and State of Emergencies (SOE) have been executed at various levels of intensity to preserve the lives and livelihoods of men, women, and their families against the Covid-19 pandemic. However, while these policies were implemented to protect lives, they also became a barrier to the security of men and women who are victims of domestic violence. Indeed, the literature has highlighted a worrying trend, in that there appears to not only be a rise in the various forms of domestic violence against victims resulting directly from the SAH measures but also in the context of climate change, issues of lack of safety, food insecurity and economic insecurity in a Covid-19 environment have all served to intensify the experiences of victims. Using a secondary research methodology, the primary focus of this chapter would be to explore the prevalence of non-extreme forms of domestic violence offences in Trinidad and Tobago occurring during the Covid-19 pandemic, its connection to climate change events, and how these changes are likely to fuel domestic violence.

  • Examining the Psychosocial Issues that Impact Female-Headed Households Post-Hurricane Maria in Dominica (registering DOI)

    Hurricane Maria made landfall on the southwest coast of Dominica on the 18th September 2017 as a category 5 hurricane with up to 160 mph wind speed. This left 31 people dead and 37 missing. Around 65,000, or approximately 80% of the population, were directly affected and more than 90% of roofs were damaged or destroyed. Power and water supplies were disrupted and entire crops destroyed. With an estimate of USD 930.9 million damages, most were sustained in the housing sector (38%), followed by transport (20%) and education (8%). Four months after the hurricane, Dominica was severely affected. Around 450 people resided in collective shelters. Over 80% of houses still had inadequate roofing. This research examined the psychosocial issues that faced the Dominican population of female-headed households after Hurricane Maria. It also examined the current physical state of homes of these women as they struggled to find some form of normalcy in living. Its focus will support community resilience, one of the four priority areas of the Regional Comprehensive Disaster Management Strategy. The results can hopefully motivate people and/or organisations to become more involved in comprehensive disaster management and have long term changes which can have positive national, regional and international implications for strengthening disaster resilience. Pre-existing, structural gender inequalities mean that disasters affect women and girls in different ways than they affect boys and men. The vulnerability of females increases when they are in a lower socioeconomic group, particularly in the Global South. This vulnerability impacts preparedness, evacuation, response, number of deaths and recovery. The reasons for this vulnerability can often be traced to the roles females hold in society and existing gender and cultural norms where they live. Research in this area can help the understanding of women and how they cope in such disasters. The aims were: to examine the living conditions of persons immediately after Hurricane Maria and four years later; to find out what issues are impacting their quality of life; and to expose the gaps in their current needs. The chapter examines the issues faced by female-headed households, with respect to the aims, methodology, methods, major findings and implications. Major findings showed that not much changed post-Hurricane Maria and four years later. The COVID-19 pandemic created more challenges and hampered infrastructure and other progress due to the Hurricane.

  • The Challenging Climate for Women in Caribbean Fisheries—From Seaweed to Seafood, and Practice to Policy (registering DOI)

    While scholars agree that Caribbean small-scale fisheries should be managed as social-ecological systems, the domination of natural science over social science is staggering. This inequity is reflected in gender analysis of impacts of climate change and variability on women in fisheries. There is little information on how climate impacts women’s livelihoods and leadership in Caribbean fisheries. Most data concern the marine environment and male-dominated harvest sector. We set out to know more about climate impacts on, and climate adaptation by, women in fisheries including how fisheries climate science could incorporate gender mainstreaming. Over the past three years a transdisciplinary team has assembled sets of mainly qualitative data to address these issues mainly through interviews and interactive workshops with women and men in the fishing industries and organizations of Caribbean countries. The challenges women face due to climate are diverse and include influxes of sargassum seaweed that change species composition and abundance in catches of seafood. Women not only deal with challenges in their livelihoods and households, but also in becoming fisherfolk leaders who influence and engage policy. The chapter examines such challenges and offers ideas for improvement in the context of gender mainstreaming.

  • Factors Influencing Climate Change Adaptation Decision Making among Farmers: Case Studies and Lessons Learnt in Trinidad and Tobago (registering DOI)

    The agriculture sector is integral to fulfilling the human biological need to consume nutritious food. The industry depends significantly on climate-sensitive assets. Because of this dependency, the need to implement climate change adaptation measures has become increasingly necessary for the sector’s survival, growth, and development. Farmers are engaged in the most fundamental steps to safeguard healthy food production. This typically involves activities necessary to grow crops and rear livestock. They make critical decisions on the use of various agricultural resources, such as land, labour, capital, water, and chemicals, that impact food production and security. This study aims to determine the measures that farmers are implementing to adapt to climate change and identify the drivers of these measures. This chapter describes a qualitative study examining the climate adaptation measures in Trinidad and Tobago’s farming community. It examines factors influencing adaptation choices and the extent to which desired outcomes are achieved. Climate and food production data are used to contextualise critical issues. The study revealed that most farmers implemented measures to adapt to extreme weather conditions, specifically periods of low rainfall and flooding. It was reported that the implemented measures were successful and that their choices were driven by the availability of resources. Based upon empirical findings, the chapter sheds light on lessons and discusses cases of adaptation that would inform policy decisions and provide farmers with knowledge of various adaptation measures. Moreover, a combination of policy and improved agricultural knowledge would guide farmers in building resilience to climate change.

  • Responding to Concurrent Disasters: Lessons Learnt by Social Work Academics Engaging with Flood Survivors during a COVID-19 Pandemic, in South African Townships (registering DOI)

    The devastating effects of the recent floods in several townships in the KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa demanded an urgent humanitarian response. The extent of the flood disaster prompted both social workers in practice and social work academics to plan and provide psychosocial services for affected communities. The COVID-19 pandemic further compounded the situation in the process of engaging communities which were affected by the floods. Services that were rendered, due to necessity, included, although not limited to; trauma debriefing, grief and bereavement counselling, securing safe shelters for displaced individuals, social relief, and social security referrals. Framed within autoethnography, in this chapter we share our experiences in preparing for and responding to the needs of the communities compromised by pre-existing socio-economic and health vulnerabilities. Moreover, we report on how trauma-informed social work principles were challenged by unconducive settings common during disasters. These yielded significant lessons, particularly for social work academics. The experience of working with flood survivors challenged us to rethink and redefine community engagement in academia-unlike ‘ivory towers.’ The field work asserted the importance of integrating indigenous knowledge systems in social work interventions alongside ‘flexible ethical’ practice. The field work required us to center the peoples’ interests, cultures and values in their intervention strategies. Furthermore, it unveiled that social work services are ineffective without strong participation and partnerships between social workers, community leaders, caretakers, and members and without inter-stakeholder collaborations. Lastly, we argue that for social workers to be relevant and effective, their intervention should be community-centered and context relevant.

  • Heat-Related Climate Change Impacts on a Small Island Developing State (SIDS): A Case Study of Trinidad, W.I. (registering DOI)

    Small Island Developing States (SIDS) have high levels of vulnerability to climate change due to their inherent physical and socio-economic characteristics. Levels of heat within urban areas in the Caribbean are not well-understood or studied. Consequently, heat-related human health impacts can be underestimated or exaggerated. The main objective of this chapter is to determine the extent of temperature variations in Trinidad. Investigations were conducted regarding the temporal variations in land surface temperatures, heat indices, and projected heat accumulation in Trinidad. Analyses showed that urban regions in Trinidad are prone to experiencing higher temperatures and heat due to dense urban infrastructure that absorbs and radiates greater amounts of heat. Heat Index (HI) analyses showed that there were significant (p ≤ 0.001) increases in the maximum HI in Trinidad from 1976 to 2015. Projected Heat Accumulation (HA) analyses showed that the western and southwestern regions of Trinidad were most prone to heat risks. These findings suggest significant adverse implications for human and ecological health as well as to the broader socio-economic sectors of Trinidad and Tobago.

Review Mode

Each chapter in this edited book has been reviewed by the editor/s, and a minimum of two external single-blind reviewers. The opinions expressed in the chapters do not reflect the view of the publisher.

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