Projections from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) show that likely increases in the frequencies and intensities of extreme weather events are expected to have mostly adverse effects on natural and human systems (IPCC, 2007). Thus, the risk of suffering from an extreme weather event is likely to increase in the future, and the impacts could be widespread, especially for those whose livelihood activities are more or less dependent on natural resources. Extended warm periods and increased drought could result in lower yields for farmers, increased livestock deaths and more widespread water stress, which again could lead to the increased risk of food and water shortages, resulting in the increased risk of food insecurity and malnutrition. The increase in heavy precipitation events could also damage crops and very likely also increase the risk of flooding in many areas, especially at high altitudes. As an effect of these increased risks, humanitarian disasters caused by weather-related shocks are likely to increase in both number and severity. In that sense, it is vital to understand how people living in disaster-prone areas are handling such changes, and how the risk of suffering from an extreme weather event affects daily life in order to identify the most efficient risk-management strategies associated with these factors. This thesis therefore analyses how extreme weather-related events impact on household well-being due to the expected increase in intense shocks. In particular, this thesis focuses on teasing out both the short- and longer term impacts of these environmental shocks in order to explore whether they could have persistent effects on the welfare of affected households. At the same time, this study also acknowledges that weather-related risks are only some of the risks that households in developing countries are facing, and it therefore also explores the relative impacts of weather-related shocks on household welfare, given the existence of other types of risk (for example, more household-specific shocks such as robberies or sickness). Compared to a single hazard approach, such a holistic approach to vulnerability analysis also provides pointers to whether households in developing countries are better able to address the impact of community-wide shocks compared to individual shocks. Moreover, an analysis encompassing a broader part of the risks faced could also point out specific risk-management strategies that are able to handle a broad range of risks, making those strategies obvious targets for future policy options. If instead the focus is on a single type of risk, the analysis risks merely facilitating options relevant for that specific type and thereby risking ignoring options that would be more relevant in a broader development context. Finally, this thesis also analyses which policy options could increase households’ abilities to nullify the adverse impacts of weather-related shocks. Again, the study refrains from focusing narrowly on options addressing the environmental risks alone, but instead explores options that could assist households in achieving persistent welfare gains, no matter whether the expected outcomes of climate change in terms of extreme weather events are realized or not. In doing so, this thesis represents an effort to contribute to filling the knowledge gap regarding how extreme weather events affect household well-being, and how the adverse impacts of the shocks can be addressed through risk-management strategies based on household access to entitlements and capital. The rest of the synopsis is structured as follows. The next section sets the stage regarding how extreme weather events may affect households. This is followed by presenting the research questions that the thesis aims at answering. Given these questions, a few of the important concepts of the thesis are discussed in order to provide clarity regarding how they are viewed and defined in this study. Moreover, I describe how the different papers included in this thesis are situated within these concepts. Finally, more extensive summaries of the individual papers are provided, followed by some concluding remarks.
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UNEP Risø Centre on Energy, Climate and Sustainable Development, Risø DTU National Laboratory for Sustainable Energy, 2011