The Politics of Human Vulnerability to Climate Change : Exploring Adaptation Lock-ins in China and the United States book cover
1st Edition

The Politics of Human Vulnerability to Climate Change
Exploring Adaptation Lock-ins in China and the United States

ISBN 9781032024035
Published March 31, 2022 by Routledge
304 Pages 31 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

This book compares how the social consequences of climate change are similarly unevenly distributed within China and the United States, despite different political systems.

Focusing on the cases of Atlanta, USA, and Jinhua, China, Julia Teebken explores a set of path-dependent factors (lock-ins), which hamper the pursuit of climate adaptation by local governments to adequately address the root causes of vulnerability. Lock-ins help to explain why adaptation efforts in both locations are incremental and commonly focus on greening the environment. In both these political systems, vulnerability appears as a core component along with the reconstitution of a class-based society. This manifests in the way knowledge and political institutions operate. For this reason, Teebken challenges the argument that China’s environmental authoritarian structures are better equipped in dealing with matters related to climate change. She also interrogates the proposition that certain aspects of the liberal democratic tradition of the United States are better suited in dealing with social justice issues in the context of adaptation. Overall, the book’s findings contradict the widespread assumption that developed countries necessarily have higher adaptive capacity than developing or emerging economies.

This volume will be of great interest to students and scholars of climate justice and vulnerability, climate adaptation and environmental policy and governance.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction: uneven human vulnerability to climate change 2. Vulnerability: core concepts 3. Vulnerability and adaptation lock-ins: Theoretical foundations and main analytical framework 4. Methodological approach 5. Vulnerability and adaptation governance in China and the United States 6. Regional backgrounds and contextual lock-ins 7. Protracted vulnerability 8. Accidental adaptation policy 9. Lock-ins of political epistemology across different political systems 10. Adaptation policy and transformation? 11. Conclusion

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Julia Teebken is a political and social scientist, and currently is a Postdoc in the Peking-Princeton Postdoctoral Program. She holds a Ph.D. degree from the Freie Universität Berlin, Germany. Her research focuses on the political responses and causes of (social) vulnerability to climate change. In this capacity, she researches inequality and climate change adaptation policy across different political systems.


"Dr. Teebken’s in-depth and critical comparative analysis of Chinese and US climate adaptation policies points out a harsh reality. Neither China nor the United States is well prepared to deal with growing climate change threats. The marginalized in these countries (will) have to battle the most. Her case studies of local policy responses to major flooding and heat events in Atlanta, Georgia and Jinhua, Zhejiang show that disadvantaged populations were impacted especially hard also because of their limited access to public resources and political bias. Dr. Teebken suggests that environmental justice in climate adaptation policies will not be achieved unless deep, underlying structural inequalities and discriminatory practices are first acknowledged and addressed."

Miranda A. Schreurs, Professor of Environment and Climate Policy, Technical University of Munich