Assessing climate change vulnerability in Rio Grande Indigenous reservation communities

Date

2024

Authors

Clearwater, Tabytha

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Abstract

Research assessing Indigenous community vulnerability to climate change is limited in the American Southwest, especially within the Rio Grande watershed region. Operating under established evidence that Indigenous reservation communities experience exacerbated climate change vulnerability compared to non-Indigenous communities, this thesis investigates methods for vulnerability assessment and develops a framework which is adapted to the unique causes of vulnerability for Southwestern Indigenous peoples. The framework is tested to quantify cultural and spatial patterns in vulnerability for twenty-five Indigenous reservations in the watershed. The relative influence of individual variables which contribute to vulnerability is calculated. Results indicate that climate change vulnerability across the region diverges primarily due to temperature stress and the strength of social infrastructure enhancing adaptive capacity. This research provides a foundation for methods used in future assessments of disparate climate change vulnerability impacts, which can inform important avenues of adaptation in the studied communities. Continued academic exploration of this topic should emphasize localized and direct validation of vulnerability indicator variables through inclusive engagement with affected communities.

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Political Science and Geography