|dc.description.abstract||Examining the understandings of and responses to anthropogenic climate change is important to help climatically vulnerable communities enhance their resilience. Lack of climate change understanding is an obstacle to appropriate climate response. Social understandings of climate change consist of general awareness, knowledge, and risk perceptions. Responses to climate change are derived from the understandings of the members of a society about the impacts and risks of climate change. The typical strategies in response to climate change are mitigation, adaptation, and resilience building. Responding to climate change is necessary at every scale to enhance the resilience of social and ecological systems. Climate change responses driven by management agencies are often helpful for vulnerable marginal communities, but not all the management interventions contribute to resilience equally.
This research addresses the highly climatically vulnerable UNESCO World Heritage Sundarbans mangrove forest area (Bangladesh and India) as the study context. The mangroves biodiversity of the Sundarbans is important for buffering climate events, as well as for forest resource collection and tourism. The existing literature about the understandings of climate change of different key stakeholder groups of the Sundarbans is very limited. The available literature informs that awareness of climate change is low in the vulnerable Sundarbans area. The effectiveness of existing response strategies, particularly for adaptation to climate change, needs to be understood in relation to the efficient use of limited resources of those developing countries. It is also unknown how the Sundarbans World Heritage helps local people to think about and act in response to climate change.
To fill these knowledge gaps, the aim of this thesis is to examine the social understandings of climate change and responses of management agencies to climate change in the Bangladesh Sundarbans including how the Sundarbans World Heritage Area is managed by Bangladesh and India. In doing so, a constructivist research paradigm is adopted aligning with a relativist ontology, subjectivist epistemology and qualitative methodology to explore understandings of and responses to climate change in the Sundarbans. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 42 stakeholders including community people, conservation and management agencies, tourism management organisations, tourism business operators, and tourists. Thematic analysis was utilised to analyse the qualitative materials of the interview programme. A range of documents including policy papers is analysed to validate and enrich the empirical materials.
The findings of this research indicate that the stakeholders of the Bangladesh Sundarbans believe that climate change is anthropogenic, they have the first-hand experience of changes in the weather system. The degree of climate risk perceptions of the stakeholders can be defined by their relative vulnerabilities and adaptive capacity. The core response to climate change in the Bangladesh Sundarbans is adaptation where sustainability depends on how the adaptation interventions contribute to resilience. In the cross-border comparative analysis, this research finds that both Bangladesh and India focus on conserving the forest ecosystem in response to climate change, but legal enforcement systems, politics, and governance systems are shaping the success of conservation management. Overall, the thesis argues that the social resilience and ecological resilience of the Sundarbans are highly related, and tourism can be utilised for resilience building in the vulnerable World Heritage area.
This thesis addresses several theoretical and empirical knowledge gaps in the current literature in the context of developing nations. Firstly, it expands the theoretical components (awareness, knowledge, and risk perceptions) with related attributes of the social understandings of climate change. Secondly, it examines the effectiveness of climate adaptation functions based on their relative contribution to building resilience. Thirdly, it utilises a cross-border analysis between Bangladesh and India to critically examine the climate change management actions by the management agencies of the Sundarbans in terms of local vulnerabilities, forest biodiversity, World Heritage and tourism; and proposes three dimensions – community, forest, wildlife - of biodiversity conservation for resilience. These contributions have implications beyond the Bangladesh and Indian contexts, with application to a range of scenarios where researchers are seeking greater insights into understandings of and responses to climate change.||