New £1M project to investigate climate change vulnerability across at-risk communities

  • Date

    Thu 26 Jan 23

Headshot of Dr Federica Genovese

A new over-arching political investigation of climate change risks and climate-related vulnerability that will shed light on the factors that make climate policy more appealing and equitable across society for the long term, has been made possible by a Leverhulme Trust Research Leadership Award totalling £1M.

The four-year project, led by Dr Federica Genovese, an expert in international and comparative climate politics in the Department of Government, will bring together Essex’s strengths in the social sciences, including the expertise of political scientists, political economists and behaviouralists, to create a comprehensive study of the political implications of socioeconomic vulnerability in the era of large-scale climate change.

Dr Genovese said: “People across the world are increasingly aware that climate change is accelerating and that it is causing major economic and ecological problems. However, we do not have systematic comparative knowledge about how citizens develop political opinions on climate policy based on their own economic and social vulnerabilities, and how their political leaders factor in these vulnerabilities when shaping climate policy.

“For society to be fair and sustainable, climate policy needs to consider the needs of a vast range of communities that are exposed to the costs of climate change in varying ways.
“Part of the problem is that climate-related vulnerability can be seen in various forms: the cost of mitigating against the material burden of decarbonizing the economy, which will increase living costs and lead to job losses; or the cost of building resilience to combat the physical consequences of climate change-related events.

“Researchers have started documenting how both these costs explain the popular support of climate action and the design of climate-policy. However, we still know little about how these dimensions of vulnerability drive individuals and communities’ support for climate policy across many countries, and how they rank with other risks such as income inequality and social discrimination.”

Dr Genovese believes this research programme can yield important findings for practical policy solutions to climate vulnerability and climate change more generally.

Working with a team of three postdocs and two PhD students, Dr Genovese seeks to better map the dimensions of climate vulnerability and trace their implications for political perceptions, national policymaking and institutional representation around the world. The research team will document the effect of belonging to and representing climate vulnerable groups for political attitudes and policy formation. Original surveys, focus groups and elite interviews will be fielded in target states representing Global North and Global South countries.

Professor Faten Ghosn, Head of the Department of Government said: “I am delighted that the Leverhulme Trust have funded this very important research. Federica’s project will shed much needed light on which political, economic and social risks people associate with climate change, and when and how such individual opinions and behaviours lead to policy representation and formation.”