Sociologist: Rural communities must plan for climate change

For the first time ever, the National Climate Assessment—the latest installment of which was released this week—examines the effects of climate change on rural communities.

Co-authoring the chapter on rural communities was Lois Wright Morton, professor of rural sociology at Iowa State University.  Wright Morton says one reason rural populations are vulnerable to climate change is because they have fewer social and economic resources to employ in recovering from weather related disasters.

“In rural places, we have transportation issues and we have infrastructure issues that go with emergency response systems,” Wright Morton says, “and rural governments often have both funding and human resource limitations that really make it difficult for them to anticipate changes in the climate.”

Wright Morton says rural communities also have both geographic and demographic obstacles that make them more vulnerable to climate change.

“Rural place are often physically isolated and they have limited economic diversity, which means they may only have one or two economic drivers that provide livelihoods for rural people,” she says, “and they have higher poverty rates, as well as an aging population.”

Wright Morton says climate change presents new challenges that rural communities must recognize and plan for in order to “adapt, survive and thrive”.

AUDIO: Lois Wright Morton (8:23 MP3)

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