Class Situation, Spatial Location, and the Risk of Exposure to Weather Extremes

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 18:15
Oral Presentation
Lopamudra BANERJEE, Bennington College, USA
The role of global warming in generating extreme weather patterns is well-recognized in
climate sciences. These extreme fluctuations are being associated with rising incidences of
disaster events, including heatwaves and flooding, in various regions of the world. It is
argued that the poor are at greater risk of exposure to these events than the wealthy. The
reasons offered are two-fold. First, weather extremes are more frequent in tropical regions
(vis-à-vis temperate regions) where poverty is also endemic and population density is
higher. Thus, risk distribution is indirectly associated with spatial distribution of global
population. Second, risk distribution is directly associated with wealth distribution within
a region’s population. It is argued risk is less for richer households than the poor even
when both face similar conditions of natural hazards, as, the former has the wherewithal
to avoid exposure and the latter does not. My study examines the “spatial location” and
“wealth distribution” hypotheses using nationally-representative household survey
datasets from two countries – Bangladesh and Germany – where rises in weather extremes
are increasingly being linked with human-induced global warming. Measuring risk as the
probability of disaster exposure for a randomly-chosen household in the population, I,
however, find that neither wealth nor the relative hazardousness of a households’ spatial
location can explain risk asymmetries in the population. Instead, I find risk follows a
pattern of class distribution in the population when classes are identified based on their
access to various forms of capital – economic, cultural, social. I employ latent class
analysis to identify the classes and a hierarchic linear regression model to explain risk in
terms of class situations and spatial situations of households. I present a Weberian reading
of Pierre Bourdieu to explain my results, and associate the conditions of disaster
vulnerability with rising conditions of precarity in global north and global south.