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How to interpret disproportionate loss and damage from climate change? An example from Hurricane Michael and housing impacts on Florida’s Forgotten Coast

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posted on 12.09.2020 by Chad Boda, Murray Scown, Emily Boyd
Loss and Damage (L&D) has gained increasing attention as the “third pillar” of climate change research and policy, alongside mitigation and adaptation. However, the L&D research and policy community has not reached any consensus on the kinds of impacts that constitute loss and damage, whom is most affected, and where, so empirical research supporting L&D is urgently required. We provide the first comparative assessment of two contrasting theoretical approaches to L&D: capital theory and the capabilities approach. Our analysis of residential property value and housing capability losses caused by Hurricane Michael in Gulf County, Florida, reveals that the theory underpinning how L&D is approached greatly affects the assessment of whom and where are most impacted. Net monetary losses of residential property value totaled more than $250 million in Gulf County, and evaluation under capital theory highlighted Cape San Blas and St. Joe Beach as most impacted areas, associated with higher value properties and consequently high monetary losses. In contrast, the capabilities approach revealed 17% of housing units were lost and high proportional value losses left many residents in sub-optimal housing conditions, with North port St. Joe, Highland View, and Wewahitchka emerging as highly impacted areas under this approach. The policy response to L&D from climate disasters, whether anthropogenic or not, is also affected by the theoretical foundation, and we argue that the capabilities approach provides a more comprehensive and effective framework to address L&D than does capital theory.

Funding

Formas Grant FR-2018/0010 ‘Recasting the Disproportionate Impact of Climate Extremes (DICE)’

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