Adaptation to climate change in developing world challenged by socioeconomic vulnerability

Recently published research developed by UB doctoral student in urban planning

Flooding in Indonesia.

Low-lying coastal regions in developing countries like Indonesia are particularly vulnerable to climate change. Research by UB investigates mitigation planning efforts in such communities around the world. Photo courtesy of World Meteorological Organization

Published September 24, 2019

A UB student's doctoral thesis on climate adaptation strategies for 45 coastal regions across the developing world reveals a complex policy landscape challenged by socio-economic sensitivity, insufficient infrastructure and limited adaptive capacity.

The research paper by Tu Dam Ngoc Le, who graduated in 2019 from UB's PhD program in urban planning, was published in the September 2019 issue of Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change.

With sea levels already rising and weather conditions growing more extreme, low-lying coastal communities in the developing world are working aggressively to mount a response. Ngoc Le's assessment of some of the most at-risk regions around the world --  45 coastal cities spanning South America, Africa, South Asia, and Oceania - revealed more than 1,500 adaptive strategies that could inform climate responses around the world. 

The study unpacks state-of-the-art municipal adaptation planning in developing countries, exploring both the types of vulnerabilities addressed by the plans and the adaptive strategies put in place. Spanning responses to Cyclone Sidr in Khulna, Bangladesh, and analyses of rising sea levels in coastal West African cities like Dakar and Accra, Ngoc Le examined 1,565 specific initiatives.

The results of Ngoc Le’s analysis show the complexity of vulnerabilities faced by communities in the cross-hairs of climate change. Indeed, those most at risk are also the most ill-equipped to handle the extreme events of climate change due to poverty and insufficient infrastructure.  

Correspondingly, adaptive responses focus primarily on current vulnerabilities rather than predicted climate change impacts. Ngoc Le concludes that local climate change adaptation in developing countries must be assessed in relation to socio-economic development and capacity enhancement. 

Among her recommendations is that municipal leaders consider implementing a coordination mechanism (either through coordinated policy or a coordination office) to integrate climate change responses with social and economic development priorities. 

Recently appointed as a faculty member of Mien Trung University of Civil Engineering, Tu Dam Ngoc Le’s work aims to bridge the gap between theory and practice of climate adaptation planning. In addtion to her PhD, she holds a bachelor's and master's degree in architecture from the University of Architecture of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.