Weaponizing vulnerability to climate change

Kimberley Anh Thomas, Benjamin P. Warner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


As scores of climate change adaptation measures are implemented around the world, there have been growing calls among academics and practitioners to also address the processes that underpin human vulnerability to climate change. However, there is mounting evidence that adaptation and vulnerability are linked, such that ostensibly adaptive responses can have negative consequences and augment people's vulnerability. We analyzed several climate change responses at various scales and developed a typology of five discrete but related modes by which the vulnerability of already vulnerable populations is being [re]produced. Crucially, this work suggests that for at least one of these modes, the vulnerability of other groups is perversely inverted, such that relatively secure populations perceive themselves to be at risk. The cases we present illustrate that people's vulnerability is being used against them, or put another way, is being weaponized―exacerbating their precarity by excluding them from much needed and due assistance, while directing resources instead to bolstering the well-being of those already well-positioned to respond to climate threats. Our typology provides a theoretical intervention by illustrating how climate vulnerability and security are co-produced, as well as a practical tool to help decision makers to adopt more just and equitable climate policies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101928
JournalGlobal Environmental Change
StatePublished - Jul 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Ecology
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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