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Climate change, adaptation, and formal education: The role of schooling for increasing societies' adaptive capacities in El Salvador and Brazil
Ecology and Society (2012)
  • Christine Wamsler
  • Ebba Brink
  • Oskari Rantala

With a worldwide increase in disasters the effects of climate change are already being felt, and it is the urban poor in developing countries who are most at risk. There is an urgent need to better understand the factors that determine people’s capacity to cope with and adapt to adverse climate conditions. This paper examines the influence of formal education in determining the adaptive capacity of the residents of two low-income settlements: Los Manantiales in San Salvador (El Salvador) and Rocinha in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), where climate-related disasters are recurrent. In both case study areas, average levels of education were found to be lower for high-risk households than residents at less risk. In this context, the influence of education was identified to be twofold and due to: (a) direct effects on risk reduction; and (b) mitigating effects on factors that increase risk. The results suggest that education plays a more determinant role for women than men in relation to their capacity to adapt. Moreover, these results suggest that the limited effectiveness of institutional support may be related to the fact that the role of formal education has so far not been sufficiently explored. Promoting improved access to (better-quality) formal education is thus a way to increase adaptive capacity. This is further supported by the fact that disasters were found to have negative effects on education levels, which in turn reduces adaptive capacity, resulting in a vicious circle of increased risk.

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Wamsler, C. (2012) "Climate Change, Adaptation, and Formal Education: The Role of Schooling for Increasing Societies' Adaptive Capacities in El Salvador and Brazil" Ecology and Society 17(2).