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Andreas Kopf

Andreas KopfPhD candidate

Research Area: Grassroots understanding, perception, and adaptation to current and future climate variability and change: Insights from the Fiji Islands.

Current Research Summary:

The South Pacific region, together with other “Small Islands Developing States” (SIDS), is particularly vulnerable to the impacts of Climate Change. The consequences of global warming are already evident and will continue to increase: Rising sea level, more frequent and intense tropical cyclones, increasing floods and droughts, increased storm surges, ocean acidification, rising land and sea surface temperature combined with pressures from other human–induced socio-environmental issues are making the livelihoods of its people increasingly vulnerable and threaten the sustainability of the way of Pacific islanders’ lives.

Therefore international and regional organizations and national governments of the Pacific underscore and committed themselves to mainstream the need for Pacific societies and its communities to adapt to current and future climatic impacts on their livelihoods in order to strengthen the social resilience and to lower the social vulnerability of their communities and people. However, a wide range of studies during the last 10-15 years showed that adaptation, which is primarily an institutional idea to face the impacts of Climate Change, and its translation into action at the local level is not straightforward. These studies point out that there are significant limits and constraints to adaptation to Climate Change.

This sociological research examines household adaptation activities to climate variability and change within rural coastal communities in Fiji, and explores influential social, cognitive and cultural factors which may limit or constrain such actions or intentions. Fieldwork included a survey amongst rural costal Fijian households (N=212) of 10 villages in Viti Levu, Vanua Levu, Taveuni, and Kadavu. The aim is to develop a comprehensive account of Fijian villagers’ conceptualization of a risk from Climate Change in order to predict adaptive responses. With the identification of the determinants which lead Fijians to adapt to climate variability and change, national strategies (common principles and operating guidelines) of adaptation can be improved and increased in efficiency. Such strategies can be drawn more clearly through recognizing the social aspects and thus conducted and implemented by local/national governments, NGOs and regional organizations and finally by individuals.

The Candidature Experience:

I feel very grateful for the Graduate Assistant Scholarship. It is a great opportunity for my interest in teaching as well as carrying out my research and is vital for conducting and realizing my PhD-Thesis at the University of the South Pacific. USP as a regional higher education institution is indeed a very special university, not only because of the intriguing cultures that make it such a special place, but furthermore because it offers great research opportunities in my field of study. I am convinced that the experience from a GA-Scholarship is an important step for my future career as an international researcher or my work for a non-governmental organization.