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  • Embracing uncertainty: A discursive approach to understanding pathways for climate adaptation in Senegal
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Embracing uncertainty: A discursive approach to understanding pathways for climate adaptation in Senegal

Source(s):  Springer

Climate change threatens to increase the frequency and intensity of droughts and floods. There are large uncertainties related to unknowns around the future and society’s responses to these threats. ‘Uncertainty,’ as other words with the prefix ‘un’ (unknown, untold, unrest), often has negative connotations. Yet, uncertainty is manifested in virtually everything that people do. To many in science, uncertainty is akin to error that should be minimised, a lack of knowledge that needs to be rectified. The authors argue that uncertainty rather should be embraced as a starting point for discussing pathways to climate adaptation. Here, the study follows a definition of ‘pathways to adaptation’ as representing a set of proactive changes in the present that move people from a climatically unsafe place, to positions of safety (self-defined as representing freedom from harm or adverse effect).

This article applies an inter-discursive analytical approach where (un)certainty and (un)safety are used to deepen the understanding around the positions of people in Senegal, and their livelihoods, with respect to climate hazards. The authors examine the discursive socio-cultural values active in the climate adaptive space. The findings show that people’s adaptive decisions often were not based on climate information, but on discursive values and emotions that guided them in the direction of responses that felt right. The study concludes that acknowledging different understandings and perceptions of uncertainty, and the goal of achieving safety, allows issues of power to be discussed. The authors contend that this process helps illuminate how to navigate pathways of adaptation to the impacts of climate variability and change.



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  • Embracing uncertainty: A discursive approach to understanding pathways for climate adaptation in Senegal
  • Publication date 2019
  • Author(s) Ayeb-Karlsson, Sonja; Fox, Gino; Kniveton, Dominic
  • Number of pages 12 p.
  • ISBN/ISSN 1436-378X

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