A social justice framing of climate change discourse and policy: Adaptation, resilience and vulnerability in a Jamaican agricultural landscape

It is now widely recognized that climate change is likely to have detrimental impacts across the Caribbean region, with the burden likely to fall disproportionately on the most vulnerable segments of society. It is therefore an appropriate time to ask whether the frameworks that lie behind climate change discourse and policy are consistent with the demands of social and environmental justice. In this paper, we use climate justice as a lens for evaluating three prominent frameworks for addressing climate change, those of adaptation, resilience, and vulnerability. Each of these discursive frameworks, we argue, can contribute to our understanding of climate change, but they do not all incorporate justice concerns to the same degree. In order to illustrate this, we examine the justice implications of using each of the three frameworks to assess a case study of agricultural transformation in Southwestern Jamaica. Farmers in this region have adapted to changing climate conditions in a variety of ways, including the use of new agricultural technology. The ability of many farmers to take advantage of such innovations, however, is constrained by the underlying landscape of vulnerability within the region. After interpreting this example from the perspectives of adaptation, resilience and vulnerability, we conclude that all three paradigms are capable of calling attention to climate justice issues, but only in the vulnerability perspective are such issues intrinsic. We believe, therefore, that a greater attention to vulnerability within Caribbean climate policy holds the potential to advance the goals of climate justice within the region.

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