El Niño Events, Forecasts and Decision-making
This chapter explores the concepts of vulnerability and equity in the context of the production and use of scientific information as tools in mitigation and for responding to climatic events. ‘Vulnerability’ has been defined in terms of risk and exposure (likelihood of a particular event and attendant economic loss), root causes and dynamic pressures that produce unsafe conditions and the capacity to act (Wisner, 1993; Pulwarty and Riebsame, 1997; Comfort et al, 1999). Equity here is taken to relate to rules and rule-making processes, and to the exchange and distribution of material or non-material resources in a specific context. Much insight has been provided by political ecologists and others regarding vulnerability as a result of actions prescribed at different scales (international, regional, national, and sub-national) over time. As has long been known, reducing social vulnerability does not depend upon the precision of forecasts of particular physical hazards alone. However, as evident in the case of El Niño-related risks, both preparedness and exacerbation of vulnerable conditions may be influenced by forecasts of events (for example, information about an impending event) as much as by the occurrence of the events themselves. Thus, the decision-making process into which such information is placed, and the associated benefits and inequities created require careful attention.