Interrogating vulnerability in the Global Framework for Climate Services

Abstract

Over the past decade, the Global Framework for Climate Services (GFCS) has emerged as a major influence on the practice of and discourse about climate services, which aim to reduce the vulnerability of society to climate-related hazards through better provision of climate information and engagement of users of climate services. Yet, there is little research into the relations, practices, and discourses produced and institutionalized through the GFCS. The treatment of vulnerability in climate services, and by the GFCS in particular, remains understudied. To address this gap, we conduct a document analysis of key GFCS reports to interrogate framings of vulnerability and examine their implications for the development and practice of climate services for adaptation. Although we see attention to vulnerability in official GFCS discourse, we find that, with a few exceptions, identifying climate vulnerabilities is largely a cursory exercise that does not meaningfully engage in the complex social processes that contribute to differential vulnerabilities. To meet its own objectives, and the larger vision of climate services, we propose that the GFCS draw upon a rich literature on vulnerability and promote the global development of climate services that considers the coupled physical and social dimensions of vulnerability and prioritizes climate services for the most vulnerable.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    According to Vaughan and Dessai (2014: 588): “Although climate services are often used in conjunction with information about the weather, climate services are also distinct from weather services, which describe the state of the atmosphere at a given place and time. Rather, climate services convey information about average weather, using the analysis of time series data to estimate trends, departures from average conditions, and low-probability events on timescales from seasons to centuries. Climate services are also distinct from climate research and observations: the former focuses on serving user needs while the latter aims to further our understanding of the climate system.”

  2. 2.

    GFCS documents excluded from this analysis include factsheets and meeting minutes.

  3. 3.

    We identified instances where the terms “vulnerability” and “vulnerable” appeared.

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Correspondence to Andrea K. Gerlak.

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This article is part of a Special Issue on “Putting Climate Services in Contexts: Advancing Multi-disciplinary Understandings” edited by Sophie Webber.

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Gerlak, A.K., Greene, C. Interrogating vulnerability in the Global Framework for Climate Services. Climatic Change 157, 99–114 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10584-019-02384-y

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Keywords

  • Climate services
  • Vulnerability
  • Adaptation
  • Climate change
  • WMO
  • Global Framework for Climate Services
  • GFCS