Understanding Divergent Constructions of Vulnerability and Resilience: Climate Change Discourses in the German Cities of Lübeck and Rostock

August 2017 (VOL. 35, NO. 2)

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In social-science based research, it is still an open question how cities cope with the multi-faceted challenges of climate change. Via the example of the German coastal cities of Lübeck and Rostock and on the basis of a discourse analysis (of news articles and expert interviews), this paper contributes to this research question by asking how cities actually perceive their vulnerability and resilience related to climate impacts. The study reveals that perceptions in the two cities differ considerably and are idiosyncratic when compared to each other. This is remarkable because both cities share similar geographic conditions as well as climate forecasts. Furthermore, they both have in common a long history as Hanseatic cities. What makes Rostock special, however, is that it was part of the former German Democratic Republic and that, after the German reunification in 1990, it suffered from socio-economic problems and marginalization. The paper’s findings raise the question of how divergent local knowledge about climate-related vulnerability and resilience can be conceptualized. It is also imperative to consider how local experiences of economic problems and social marginalization influence local knowledge regarding climate change. Consequently, the authors suggest a theoretical approach which is mainly based on social constructionism. Furthermore, they highlight the role that locally shared experiences—such as of social marginalization—play in the emergence of climate change constructions.