Evaluating climate change vulnerability assessments: a case study of research focusing on the built environment in northern Canada

  • James D. Ford
  • Clara Champalle
  • Pamela Tudge
  • Rudy Riedlsperger
  • Trevor Bell
  • Erik Sparling
Original Article

Abstract

Vulnerability assessments (VAs) have been widely used to understand the risks posed by climate change and identify opportunities for adaptation. Few studies, however, have evaluated VAs from the perspective of intended knowledge users or with reference to established best practices. In this paper, we identify and evaluate VAs focusing on the built environment in northern Canada. We document 16 completed VAs, which range from engineering-based studies of the vulnerability of specific infrastructural assets (e.g. building foundations, roads) to community-based assessments characterizing the vulnerability of the built environment in general in specific communities. We then evaluate projects based on the extent to which they incorporate best practices for vulnerability assessment, informed by a review of the scholarship and interviews with practitioners and knowledge users in the north (n = 21). While completed VAs have increased our understanding of the risks posed by climate change, none perform well across all evaluation criteria, and interviewees identified the need for improvement to VAs to inform decision making. Specifically, there is a need for greater emphasis on stakeholder engagement and effective communication of research findings, and interdisciplinary collaboration to capture the multiple drivers of vulnerability, cost impacts, and examine the performance of infrastructural assets under different climate scenarios.

Keywords

Vulnerability Climate change Built environment Northern Canada Arctic Literature review Evaluation framework 

Notes

Acknowledgments

This research was funded by Natural Resources Canada in support of Canada’s Adaptation Platform Northern Working Group. We’d like to thank the following for their important contributions to the work: Marie-Caroline Badjeck, Caroline Larrivee, Tristan Pearce, Bronwyn Benkert, Frank Duerden, Jamal Shirley, Lacia Kinnear, Sara Brown, Brian Sieben, Al Douglas, Donald Forbes, Martin Tremblay, Colleen Healey, Sara Holzman, Lea Berrang-Ford, and Tom Sheldon. Adam Bonnycastle produced Fig. 1. Finally, the authors also wish to thank all interview participants that contributed their time and valuable knowledge to inform this study.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • James D. Ford
    • 1
  • Clara Champalle
    • 1
  • Pamela Tudge
    • 1
  • Rudy Riedlsperger
    • 2
  • Trevor Bell
    • 2
  • Erik Sparling
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of GeographyMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada
  2. 2.Department of GeographyMemorial University of NewfoundlandSt John’sCanada
  3. 3.Risk Sciences InternationalOttawaCanada

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