Adaptive capacity of islands of the Maldives to climate change

Mohamed, Ibrahim (2018) Adaptive capacity of islands of the Maldives to climate change. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

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In today’s world, small islands are exposed to unprecedented impacts of global climate change. The ability of small islands to adjust and cope with these impacts is based on a number of socio-ecological parameters. Research on adaptive capacity has gained momentum within the last decade, and opted assets-based theories, correlating adaptive capacity to utilisation of available opportunities and resources. While such methodologies have major limitations, there is a dearth of studies on adaptive capacity of small islands at the frontier of global climate change. The small island nations are threatened with loss of culture and disruptions to livelihoods, as well as ability to support human habitation from the predicted future effects of climate change.

This thesis provides information on this life and cultural threatening issues by identifying the potential for, and limits to, climate change adaptive capacity in the islands of the Maldives through a lens of islandness. This thesis employed a multidisciplinary theoretical framework and contributed to a holistic understanding of adaptive capacity of small islands. The study utilised theory of islandness from an epistemological perspective of pragmatism. The concurrent mixed methods approach, based on analogue comparative case study methodology, involved both constructivist and positivist approaches. The study examined five case study islands from the Maldives and triangulated data obtained from document analysis, participatory climate change adaptation appraisal, stakeholder interviews, surveys, and spatial analysis of biogeophysical characteristics.

The results of this study demonstrated that adaptive capacity of islands is a predicament of the biogeophysical characteristics, socio-politics and governance, socio-cultural, and socioeconomic factors. The analyses revealed that: (1) the most critical influence on adaptive capacity is from biogeophysical characteristics of islands, followed by socio-cognitive aspects related to belief efficacy of islanders; (2) at a household level, assets, social organisation and flexibility contributed significantly to adaptive capacity; (3) the islands are currently approaching their adaptive capacity thresholds, owing to non-linearity of responses of biogeophysical features of islands to ongoing climate change impacts, especially increases in temperature, sea level rise and changes in rainfall; (4) islands at the edge of crossing the adaptive capacity thresholds require engineered transformative adaptation; and (5) transformation of adaptive capacity into adaptive actions requires empowerment of islanders, democratisation of institutions, and strategic planning of hard and soft adaptation measures within an island context and scale.

Consequently, encoding and decoding of adaptive capacity from an island epistemological view defines what socioecological aspects, and by which strategies, adaptation can be mobilised and enhanced. Emergent findings indicative of future research includes incorporating ethnography with phenomenology in the study of adaptive capacity and refining the methods used in data collection. Additionally, the present research confirmed that an adaptive capacity index does not translate how the adaptive capacity can be mobilised in to action in islands, and is not significant. The results of this thesis offer significant contribution for policy makers and adaptation practitioners on how climate change policies and strategies need to commensurate with the context of the dynamic socio-ecological system of the islands. The present study also offers an insight of strengths, limitations and challenges on islands in adapting to future climate change.

Item ID: 64546
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: climate change, islands, adaptive capacity, socio-ecological, Maldives
Copyright Information: Copyright © 2018 Ibrahim Mohamed.
Date Deposited: 08 Oct 2020 00:52
FoR Codes: 05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0501 Ecological Applications > 050101 Ecological Impacts of Climate Change @ 50%
05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0501 Ecological Applications > 050102 Ecosystem Function @ 50%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9603 Climate and Climate Change > 960301 Climate Change Adaptation Measures @ 100%
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