Assessing vulnerabilities to the effects of global change: an eight step approach

Article

Abstract

In the recent years, global environmental change research has seen increased attention to the concept of vulnerability. There have been a growing number of vulnerability assessments, but relatively little discussion on appropriate and common methods. Here we propose a method to guide vulnerability assessments of coupled human–environment systems toward a common objective: informing the decision-making of specific stakeholders about options for adapting to the effects of global change. We suggest five criteria vulnerability assessments must at least possess to achieve this objective. They should have a knowledge base from various disciplines and stakeholder participation, be place based, consider multiple interacting stresses, examine differential adaptive capacity, and be prospective as well as historical. On the basis of these criteria, we present a general methodological guideline of eight steps. To examine whether these eight steps, if attentively coordinated, do in fact achieve the criteria, and in turn satisfy the objective of the assessment, we discuss two case studies. We expect most readers to identify some of the steps as part of their well-established disciplinary practices. However, they should also identify one or more steps as uncommon to their research traditions. Thus taken together the eight steps constitute a novel methodological framework. We hypothesize that if researchers employ this framework, then the products of the research will (1) achieve the objective of preparing stakeholders for the effects of global change on a site-specific basis, and (2) further the “public good” of additional insights through cross-study comparisons of research projects designed according to common principles.

Keywords

adaptation adaptive capacity exposure global environmental change integrated assessment modeling sensitivity stakeholders sustainability vulnerability 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Ahmad, Q.K. and Warrick, R.A.: 2001, ‘,Methods and tools’, in J.J. McCarthy, O.F. Canziani, N.A. Leary, D.J. Dokken and K.S. White (eds.), Climate Change 2001—Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability, Contribution of Working Group II to the Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, pp. 107–143.Google Scholar
  2. Alcamo, J., Ash, N.J., Butler, C.D., Callicott, J.B., Capistrano, D., Carpenter, S.R., Castilla, J.C., Chambers, R., Chopra, K., Cropper, A., Daily, G.C., Dasgupta, P., Groot, R.D., Dietz, T., Duraiappah, A.K., Gadgil, M., Hamilton, K., Hassan, R., Lambin, E.F., Lebel, L., Leemans, R., Jiyuan, L., Malingreau, J.P., May, R.M., McCalla, A.F., McMichael, T.A.J., Moldan, B., Mooney, H., Naeem, S., Nelson, G.C., Wen-Yuan, N., Noble, I., Zhiyun, B., Pagiola, S., Pauly, D., Percy, S., Pingali, P., Prescott-Allen, R., Reid, W.V., Ricketts, T.H., Samper, C., Scholes, R.B., Simons, H., Toth, F.L., Turpie, J.K., Watson, R.T., Wilbanks, T.J., Williams, M., Wood, S., Shidong, Z., and Zurek, M.B.: 2003, Ecosystems and Human Well-being: A Framework for Assessment—Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, Washington, Island Press.Google Scholar
  3. Böhle, H.G., Downing, T.E. and Watts, M.: 1994, ‘,Climate change and social vulnerability: toward a sociology and geography of food insecurity’, Global Environmental Change 4(1), 37–48.Google Scholar
  4. Campbell, P.: 2003, ‘,Who'd want to work in a team?’, Nature 424, 1 (Editorial).Google Scholar
  5. Carter, T.R., Parry, M.L., Harasawa, H. and Nishioka, S.: 1994, ‘,IPCC Technical Guidelines for Assessing Climate Change Impacts and Adaptations’, Climate Change Impacts and Adaptations, London, UK and Tsukuba, Japan, Department of Geography, University College London and Center for Global Environmental Research, National Institute for Environmental Studies, pp. 59.Google Scholar
  6. Cash, D.W., Clark, W.C., Alcock, F., Dickson, N.M., Eckley, N., Guston, D.H., Jäger, J. and Mitchell, R.B.: 2003, ‘,Knowledge systems for sustainable development’, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences United States of America 100(14), 8086–8091.Google Scholar
  7. Clark, W.C.: 2002, ‘,Social Learning’, in Encyclopedia of Global Change. Oxford, Oxford University Press, pp. 382–384.Google Scholar
  8. Clark, W.C. and Dickson, N.M.: 2003, ‘,Sustainability science: The emerging research program’, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences United States of America 100(14), 8059–8061.Google Scholar
  9. Cutter, S.: 1996, ‘,Vulnerability to environmental hazards’, Progress in Human Geography 20(4): 529–539.Google Scholar
  10. Dow, K.: 1992, ‘,Exploring differences in our common future(s): The meaning of vulnerability to global environmental change’, Geoforum 23, 417–436.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Downing, T.E.: 1991, ‘,Vulnerability to hunger in Africa: A climate change perspective’, Global Environmental Change 1, 365–380.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Downing, T.E.: 2000, ‘,Human dimensions research: Toward a vulnerability science?’, International Human Dimensions Program Update 31(3), 16–17.Google Scholar
  13. Downing, T.E., Butterfield, R., Cohen, S., Huq, S., Moss, R., Rahman, A., Sokona, Y. and Stephen, L.: 2001, ‘,Vulnerability Indices: Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation’, United Nations Environment Programme Policy Series 3.Google Scholar
  14. Easterling, W.E. and Polsky, C.: 2004, ‘,Crossing the complex divide: Linking scales for understanding coupled human-environment systems’, in R. McMaster and E. Sheppard (eds.), Scale and Geographic Inquiry, Oxford, Blackwell, pp. 55–64.Google Scholar
  15. Farrell, A., VanDeveer, S. and Jäger, J.: 2001, ‘,Environmental assessments: Four under-appreciated design elements’, Global Environmental Change 11(4), 311–333.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Fischhoff, B.: 1995, ‘,Risk communication and perception unplugged: Twenty years of process’, Risk Analysis 15, 137–145.Google Scholar
  17. Fotheringham, S., Brunsdon, C. and Charlton, M.: 1998, ‘,Geographically weighted regression: A natural evolution of the expansion method for spatial data analysis’, Environment and Planning, A 30, 905–927.Google Scholar
  18. Fox, S.: 2002, When the Weather is Uggianaqtuq: Inuit Observations of Environmental Change, Multi-media, Interactive CD-ROM. Boulder, Colorado, USA, Cartography Lab, Department of Geography, University of Colorado at Boulder.Google Scholar
  19. Garcia, R. (ed.): 1981, Drought and Man: The 1972 Case History, Volume 1: Nature Pleads Not Guilty, Oxford, Pergamon Press.Google Scholar
  20. Golding, D.: 2001, ‘,Vulnerability’, in A.S. Goudie and D.J. Cuff (eds.), Encyclopedia of Global Change: Environmental Change and Human Society, Oxford, Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Hoozemans, F.M.J., Marchand, M. and Pennekamp, H.A.: 1993, A Global Vulnerability Analysis: Vulnerability Assessment for Population, Coastal Wetlands and Rice Production on a Global Scale, 2nd rev. edn, The Netherlands, Delft Hydraulics, pp. 184.Google Scholar
  22. Houghton, J.T., Ding, Y., Griggs, D.J., Noguer, M., van der Linden, P.J., Dai, X., Maskell, K. and Johnson, C.A.: 2001, Climate Change 2001: The Scientific Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Cambridge, Cambridge, University Press, 881 pp.Google Scholar
  23. IMAGE team: 2001, The IMAGE 2.2 Implementation of the SRES Scenarios: A Comprehensive Analysis of Emissions, Climate Change and Impacts in the 21st Century, RIVM CD-ROM Bilthoven, The Netherlands, National Institute of Public Health and the Environment, Publication 481508018.Google Scholar
  24. IPCC CZMS: 1992, ‘,A common methodology for assessing vulnerability to sea-level rise—second revision' in Global Climate Change and the Rising Challenge of the Sea, Report of the Coastal Zone Management Subgroup, Response Strategies Working Group of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Ministry of Transport, Public Works and Water Management, The Hague, The Netherlands, Appendix C, pp. 27.Google Scholar
  25. Jaeger, C.C., Renn, O., Rosa, E.A. and Webler, T.: 2001, ‘,Risk, Uncertainty, and Rational Action', London, UK, Earthscan Publication Ltd., pp. 320.Google Scholar
  26. Jones, R.N.: 2001, ‘,An environmental risk assessment/management framework for climate change impact assessments’, Natural Hazards 23, 197–230.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Kahneman, D. and Tversky, A.: 1979, ‘,Prospect theory: An analysis of decision under risk’, Econometrica 47, 263–291.Google Scholar
  28. Kaly, U.L., Pratt, C.R., Mitchell, J. and Howorth, R.: 2003, The Demonstration Environmental Vulnerability Index (EVI), SOPAC Technical Report 356, 133 pp.Google Scholar
  29. Kandlikar, M. and Risbey, J.: 2000, ‘,Agricultural impacts of climate change: If adaptation is the answer, what is the question?: An editorial comment’, Climatic Change 45, 529–539.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Kasemir, B., Jäger, J., Jaeger, C.C. and Gardner, M.T. (eds.): 2003, Public Participation in Sustainability Science, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, pp. 311.Google Scholar
  31. Kasperson, J.X. and Kasperson, R.E. (eds.): 2001, Global Environmental Risk, Tokyo, United Nations University Press, pp. 574.Google Scholar
  32. Kasperson, J.X., Kasperson, R.E., Turner, B.L., Hsieh W. and Schiller, A.: 2003, ‘,Vulnerability to global environmental change’, in A. Diekman, T. Dietz, C.C. Jaeger and E.A. Rosa (eds.), The Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change, Cambridge, MA, USA, MIT Press.Google Scholar
  33. Kasperson, R.: 2001, ‘,Vulnerability and global environmental change’, International Human Dimensions Program Update 01(2), 2–3.Google Scholar
  34. Kasperson, R.E., Renn, O., Slovic, P., Brown, H., Emel, J., Goble, R., Kasperson, J.X. and Ratick, S.: 1988, ‘,The social amplification of risk: A conceptual framework’, Risk Analysis 8(2), 177–187.Google Scholar
  35. Kates, R.W.: 1985, ‘,The Interaction of Climate and Society’, In R.W. Kates, J.H. Ausubel and M. Berberian (eds.), Climate Impact Assessment: Studies of the Interaction of Climate and Society, Wiley, Chichister.Google Scholar
  36. Kates, R.W., Clark, W.C., Corell, R., Hall, J.M., Jaeger, C.C., Lowe, I., McCarthy, J.J., Schellnhuber, H.-J., Bolin, B., Dickson, N.M., Faucheux, S., Gallopin, G.C., Gruebler, A., Huntley, B., Jäger, J., Jodha, N.S., Kasperson, R.E., Mabogunje, A., Matson, P., Mooney, H., Moore III, B., O'Riordan, T. and Svedin, U.: 2001, ‘,Sustainability science’, Science 292, 641–642.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Kelly, P.M. and Adger, W.N.: 2000, ‘,Theory and practice in assessing vulnerability to climate change and facilitating adaptation’, Climatic Change 47, 325–352.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Klein, R.J.T. and Maciver, D.C.: 1999, ‘,Adaptation to climate variability and change: methodological issues’, Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change 4, 189–198.Google Scholar
  39. Klein, R.J.T., Nicholls, R.J. and Mimura, N.: 1999, ‘,Coastal adaptation to climate change: Can the IPCC technical guidelines be applied?’, Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change 4, 239–252.Google Scholar
  40. Liverman, D.: 2001, ‘,Vulnerability to global environmental change’, in J.X. Kasperson and R.E. Kasperson (eds.), Global Environmental Risk, Tokyo, United Nations University Press, pp. 201–216.Google Scholar
  41. Loewenstein, G. and Elster, J.: 1992, Choice Over Time, New York, USA, Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  42. Luers, A.L., Lobell, D.B., Sklar, L.S., Addams, C.L. and Matson, P.A.: 2003, ‘,A method for quantifying vulnerability, applied to the agricultural system of the Yaqui Valley, Mexico,’ Global Environmental Change 13, 255–267.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. McCarthy, J.J., Canziani, O.F., Leary, N.A., Dokken, D.J. and White, K.S. (eds.): 2001, Climate Change 2001: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability, Published for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1032 pp.Google Scholar
  44. McCarthy, J.J., Martello, M.L., Corell, R.W., Eckley, N., Hovelsrud-Broda, G., Mathiesen, S., Polsky, C., Selin, H. and Tyler, N.: 2003, Assessing Vulnerabilities: A Strategy for the Arctic. An Interdisciplinary and Intercultural Study to Assess the vulnerabilities of Coupled Human-Environment Systems in the Arctic, Submitted to The Arctic Climate Impact Assessment of the Arctic Council.Google Scholar
  45. Moss, R., Brenkert, A. and Malone, E.L.: 2000, Measuring vulnerability: A trial indicator set. in Pacific Northwest Laboratories. Available online: http://www.pnl.gov/globalchange/projects/vul/indicators.pdf.
  46. Nakicenovic, N. and Swart, R. (eds.): 2000, IPCC Special Report on Emissions Scenarios (SRES), Cambridge, UK, Cambridge University Press, pp. 570.Google Scholar
  47. Nicholls, R.J.: 2002, ‘,Rising sea levels: Potential impacts an responses,’ in R.E. Hester and R.M. Harrison (eds.). Global Environmental Change, Issues in Envionmental Science and Technology, Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, pp. 83–107.Google Scholar
  48. NRC: 1999, Our Common Journey: A Transition Toward Sustainability, Board on Sustainable Development, National Research Council, Washington, DC, USA, National Academy Press.Google Scholar
  49. NRC: 2001, The Science of Regional and Global Change: Putting Knowledge to Work, Committee on Global Change Research, National Research Council, Washington, DC, USA, National Academy Press.Google Scholar
  50. O'Brien, K., Sygna, L. and Haugen, J.E.: 2003, ‘,Vulnerable or resilient? A multi-scale assessment of climate impacts and vulnerability in Norway’, Climatic Change 464, 193–225.Google Scholar
  51. O'Brien, K. and Leichenko, R.: 2004, ‘,Double exposure: Assessing the impacts of climate change within the context of economic globalization’, Global Environmental Change 10, 221–232.Google Scholar
  52. Parry, M.L.: 2001, ‘,Viewpoint—climate change: Where should our research priorities be?’ Global Environmental Change 11, 257–260.Google Scholar
  53. Parry, M. and Carter, T.: 1998, Climate Impact and Adaptation Assessment—A Guide to the IPCC Approach, London, UK, Earthscan, pp. 166.Google Scholar
  54. Patt, A.G.: 2001, ‘,Understanding uncertainty: forecasting seasonal climate for farmers in Zimbabwe’, Risk Decision and Policy 6, 105–119.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Patt, A.G. and Gwata, C.: 2002, ‘,Effective seasonal climate forecast applications: Examining constraints for subsistence farmers in Zimbabwe’, Global Environmental Change 12, 185–195.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Petschel-Held, G., Block, A., Cassel-Gintz, M., Kropp, J., Lüdecke, M.K.B., Moldenhauer, O., Reusswig, F. and Schellnhuber, H.-J.: 1999, ‘,Syndromes of global change—a qualitative modelling approach to assist global environmental management’, Environmental Modeling and Assessment 4(4), 295–314.Google Scholar
  57. Polsky, C.: 2004, ‘,Putting space and time in Ricardian climate change impact studies: The case of agriculture in the U.S. great plains’, Annals of the Association of American Geographers 94(3), 549–564.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Polsky, C. and Munroe, D.: 2004, in press, ‘,Studying scale and scalar dynamics in integrated regional assessments’, in C.G. Knight and J. Jäger (eds.), Integrated Regional Assessments.Google Scholar
  59. Polsky, C., Schröter, D., Patt, A., Gaffin, S., Martello, M.L., Neff, R., Pulsipher, A. and Selin, H.: 2003, Assessing Vulnerabilities to the Effects of Global Change: An Eight-Step Approach. Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs Working Paper, Environment and Natural Resources Program, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts.Google Scholar
  60. Raskin, P., Banuri, T., Gallopin, G., Gutman, P., Hammond, A., Kates, R. and Swart, R.: 2002, Great Transition: The Promise and Lure of the Times Ahead, Boston, MA, USA, Global Scenario Group, Stockholm Environment Institute. http://www.tellus.org/seib/publications/Great_Transitions.pdf.
  61. Ribot, J.C., Magalhaes, A. and Panagides, S. (eds.): 1996, Climate Variability, Climate Change, and Social Vulnerability in the Semi-Arid Tropics, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  62. Ribot, J.C.: 1996, Climate variability, Climate Change and Vulnerability: Moving forward by looking back, in J. C. Ribot, A. R. Magalhaes, and S. Panagides (eds.), Climate Variability, Climate Change and Social Vulnerability in the Semi-Arid Tropics, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, pp. 1–10.Google Scholar
  63. Riebsame, W.E.: 1989, Assessing the Social Implications of Climate Fluctuations: A Guide to Climate Impact Studies, World Climate Impacts Programme, Nairobi, United Nations Environment Programme.Google Scholar
  64. Sabatier, P. and Jenkins-Smith, H.: 1999, ‘,The advocacy coalition framework: An assessment’, in P. Sabatier (ed.), Theories of the Policy Process, Boulder, Colorado, USA, Westview Press, pp. 117–166.Google Scholar
  65. Schneider, S.H., Easterling, W.E. and Mearns, L.O.: 2000, ‘,Adaptation: Sensitivity to natural variability, agent assumptions and dynamic climate changes’, Climatic Change 45, 203–221.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Smit, B., Burton, I., Klein, R.J.T. and Street, R.: 1999, ‘,The science of adaptation: A framework for assessment’, Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change 4(3,4), 199–213.Google Scholar
  67. Smit, B. and Pilifosova, O.: 2001, ‘,Adaptation to climate change in the context of sustainable development and equity’, in J.J. McCarthy, O.F. Canziani, N.A. Leary, D.J. Dokken and K.S. White (eds.), Climate Change 2001—Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability, Contribution of Working Group II to the Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, pp. 877–912.Google Scholar
  68. Smith, J. B., Schellnhuber, H.-J. and Qader Mirza, M.M.: 2001, ‘,Vulnerability to climate change and reasons for concern: A synthesis’, in J.J. McCarthy, O.F. Canziani, N.A. Leary, D.J. Dokken and K.S. White (eds.), Climate Change 2001—Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability, Contribution of Working Group II to the Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, pp. 915–967.Google Scholar
  69. Smithers, J. and Smit, B.: 1997, ‘,Human Adaptation to Climatic Variability and Change’, Global Environmental Change 7(2), 129–146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Stephen, L. and Downing, T.E.: 2001, ‘,Getting the scale rights: A comparison of analytical methods for vulnerability assessment and household-level targeting’. Disasters 25(2), 113–135.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Turner, B.L., Kasperson, R.E., Matson, P., McCarthy, J.J., Corell, R.W., Christensen, L., Eckley, N., Kasperson, J.X., Luers, A., Martello, M.L., Polsky, C., Pulsipher, A. and Schiller, A.: 2003a, ‘,A framework for vulnerability analysis in sustainability science’, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, United States of America 100, 8074–8079.Google Scholar
  72. Turner, B.L., Kasperson, R.E., Meyer, W.B., Dow, K.M., Golding, D., Kasperson, J.X., Mitchell, R.C. and Ratick, S.J.: 1990, ‘,Two Types of Environmental Change: Definitional and Spatial-Scale Issues in their Human Dimensions’, Global Environmental Change, 1(1), 14–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Turner, B.L., Matson, P., McCarthy, J.J., Corell, R.W., Christensen, L., Eckley, N., Hovelsrud-Broda, G., Kasperson, J.X., Kasperson, R.E., Luers, A., Martello, M.L., Mathiesen, S., Polsky, C., Pulsipher, A., Schiller, A. and Tyler, N.: 2003b, ‘,Illustrating the coupled human-environment system for vulnerability analysis: Three case studies’, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, United States of America 100, 8080–8085.Google Scholar
  74. Turner, B.L. and Meyer, W.B.: 1991, ‘,Land use and land cover in global environmental change: Considerations for study’, International Social Science Journal 130, 669–679.Google Scholar
  75. Walker, B., Carpenter, S., Anderies, J., Abel, N., Cummings, G., Janssen, M., Lebel, L., Norberg, J., Peterson, G.D. and Pritchard, R.: 2002, ‘,Resilience management in social-ecological systems: A working hypothesis for a participatory approach’, Conservation Ecology 6(1), 14 (online). http://www.consecol.org/vol6/iss1/art14/main.html.
  76. Waltner-Toews, D., Kay, J.J., Neudoerffer, C. and Gitau, T.: 2003, ‘,Perspective changes everything: managing ecosystems from the inside out’, Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 1(1), 23–30.Google Scholar
  77. Watts, M.: 1983, ‘,On the poverty of theory: Natural hazards research in context’, in K. Hewitt (ed.), Interpretations of Calamity from the Viewpoint of Human Ecology, Boston, Massachusetts, Allen & Unwin, pp. 231–262.Google Scholar
  78. Warwick, C., Bakker, K., Downing, T.E. and Lonsdale, K.: 2003, ‘,Scenarios as a tool in water management: Considerations of scale and application’, in A.S. Alsharhan and W.W. Wood (eds.), Water Resources Perspectives: Evaluation, Management and Policy, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Elsevier Science, pp. 1–20.Google Scholar
  79. White, G.F., Kates, R.W. and Burton, I.: 2001, ‘,Knowing better and losing even more: The use of knowledge in hazards management’, Environmental Hazards 3(3,4), 81–92.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, Inc. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dagmar Schröter
    • 1
  • Colin Polsky
    • 2
  • Anthony G. Patt
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Global Change and Natural SystemsPotsdam Institute for Climate Impact ResearchPotsdamGermany
  2. 2.Graduate School of Geography and George Perkins Marsh InstituteClark UniversityWorcesterU.S.A.
  3. 3.Department of Global Change and Social SystemsPotsdam Institute for Climate Impact ResearchPotsdamGermany

Personalised recommendations