Applying Intersectionality Theory to Pluvial Flood Risk - An empirical analysis of social vulnerability to urban pluvial flooding in Europe
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Climate change projections indicate that extreme precipitation events will increase in the future, leading to increased pluvial flooding and flood hazards. While there is increasing attention toward flood risk analysis and adaptation, pluvial flood risk is still only marginally addressed in research. Additionally, urbanization intensifies the frequency of flooding in cities because of a reduction in permeable surfaces. In the face of climate hazards, multiple forms of climate injustices in today’s cities are well-documented and are usually faced by marginalized and low-income communities. Despite this knowledge, research indicates that traditional urban (flood) adaptation policies are most often founded on exclusionary and technocratic approaches that tend to neglect the structural causes of social vulnerabilities. Intersectionality theory can help to uncover and address these multidimensional levels of vulnerability and can be utilized to inform such adaptation measures. Hence, this research will focus on pluvial flooding impacts in European urban areas with an additional focus on intersectional social vulnerabilities relating to climate justice issues within pluvial flood protection planning. Informed by intersectionality theory, this research presents an intersectional vulnerability index (IVI) to pluvial flooding in a European urban context. The IVI is built around 10 dimensions of social vulnerabilities (education, housing, special needs populations, economic status, gender, nationality, family structure, age, people without social networks, and infrastructure dependence). The IVI is then computed into a readily transferable composite index (CI). The index is applied to two case studies and helps to unveil the most socially vulnerable districts and compounding social vulnerabilities of people through statistical analysis. Paired with an urban flood exposure dataset, districts are being identified that experience relatively high social vulnerabilities combined with relatively high pluvial flood exposure levels. The paper further discusses pluvial flooding and social vulnerabilities in a climate justice context, identifying structures of intersecting discriminations and resulting vulnerabilities and disproportionality in flood impacts. The thesis concludes with recommendations to enhance social justice within FRM.
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