Political-economic transformation and the reproduction of climate change vulnerability of a high-income city

Alex Y. LO, Shuwen LIU, Lewis T.O. CHEUNG

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlespeer-review

Abstract

System transformation is important for low-lying coastal cities to adapt to natural disasters related to climate change, but not all forms of transformation enable adaptation. An important question is how an enduring system change undermines the enabling conditions for reducing vulnerability. This paper addresses the relationship between society-wide transformation and vulnerability reduction. A case study of Macao is used to explain structural vulnerabilities to storm surges in the context of a historic social change process marked by the end of colonial rule. The post-colonial regime seeks political legitimacy from extraordinary economic performance. The capitalist growth model has created new and resilient urban spaces, but reproduced the vulnerabilities of the older ones. The transformation has resulted in a perverse social contract and increased dependence on a shadow regime, undermining the social agency for change. We deconstruct the perceived legitimacy of transformation and examine the social and political consequences of performance legitimization. A society-wide transformation that seeks legitimacy from an unsustainable practice is a recipe for maladaptation. Socio-political realities mediate the effects of transformative social change. Our conclusions highlight the importance of analyzing transformation as an enduring system change. This requires framing the disruptive processes and impacts of transformation as a determinant and explicitly accounting for their socio-temporal dimensions in conceptualizing the non-linear relationship between transformation and vulnerability reduction. Copyright © 2024 The Authors.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104234
JournalInternational Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction
Volume101
Early online dateDec 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2024

Citation

Lo, A. Y., Liu, S., & Cheung, L. T. O. (2024). Political-economic transformation and the reproduction of climate change vulnerability of a high-income city. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, 101, Article 104234. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijdrr.2023.104234

Keywords

  • Transformation
  • Climate change adaptation
  • Vulnerability reduction
  • Political economy
  • China

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