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

Ayeb-Karlsson, S; Fox, G; Kniveton, D; (2019) Embracing uncertainty: A discursive approach to understanding pathways for climate adaptation in Senegal. Regional Environmental Change , 19 pp. 1585-1596. 10.1007/s10113-019-01495-7. Green open access

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Abstract

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 we do. To many in science, uncertainty is akin to error that should be minimised, a lack of knowledge that needs to be rectified. We argue that uncertainty rather should be embraced as a starting point for discussing pathways to climate adaptation. Here we follow 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. We examine the discursive socio-cultural values active in the climate adaptive space. Our 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. We conclude that acknowledging different understandings and perceptions of uncertainty, and the goal of achieving safety, allows issues of power to be discussed. We contend that this process helps illuminate how to navigate pathways of adaptation to the impacts of climate variability and change.

Type: Article
Title: Embracing uncertainty: A discursive approach to understanding pathways for climate adaptation in Senegal
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1007/s10113-019-01495-7
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10113-019-01495-7
Language: English
Additional information: This is an open access article under the CC BY license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Keywords: Climate change, Discourse, Family therapy, Safe uncertainty, Senegal, Socio-cultural perceptions
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of Maths and Physical Sciences > Inst for Risk and Disaster Reduction
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10141519
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