Year

2018

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

School of Geography and Sustainable Communities

Abstract

As the opportunity to entirely avoid or reverse climate change has passed, adaptation has become an increasingly essential response to climate change. One area requiring further research attention is climate change adaptation at the household scale. Understanding and facilitating adaptation at this scale is critical given households’ social and cultural significance; they are more than just physical dwellings, they are homes. Climate change impacts will therefore collide in complex ways with householders’ values, practices, everyday lives and livelihoods. While an important body of research on household-scale adaptation has emerged over the last decade, two key gaps remain: a focus on indirect climate change impacts and adaptation in culturally-diverse populations. This thesis responds to these gaps by reporting on a project that investigated climate change adaptation in culturally-diverse households in Greater Sydney, Australia. A mixed-methods approach, using questionnaires and semi-structured interviews, was adopted to explore: 1) how households are likely to be impacted by climate change in direct and indirect, ‘more-than-climate’ ways; 2) how householders’ think climate change has impacted and/or will impact their households; 3) whether, and how, householders understand and practise climate change adaptation at the household scale; and 4) how householders’ perceive their own vulnerability and capacities.

This thesis presents a novel synthesis of the intersections between climate change impacts and householders’ everyday lives. It does so by recognising that some impacts will be very direct; individuals will have embodied and adverse experiences of climatic stimuli and hazards, and have to protect their dwellings from damage and disasters. However, households will also experience climate change indirectly via their connections to wider networks and systems of provision which are susceptible to climate change – including food, water, energy, and transport. This thesis is the first to present a synthesis of direct and indirect climate change impacts. The conceptual framework for this study was shaped by this distinction, alongside three key insights from cultural environmental research at the household scale: the conceptualisation of ‘connected’ households; the prominence of everyday practice; and the differential capacities of households. Guided by this framework and a pragmatic approach, the research was attentive to the nuance of how everyday lives are lived in a climate changing world.

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Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.