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Climate pp 67-88 | Cite as

Multiple Dimensions of Vulnerability and Its Influence on Adaptation Planning and Decision Making

  • L. D. Mortsch
Conference paper
Part of the NATO Science for Peace and Security Series C: Environmental Security book series (NAPSC)

Abstract

Adaptation is an adjustment in natural or human systems that moderates harm or exploits beneficial opportunities from climate change. Well-informed adaptation planning and decision making require information that extends beyond the natural domain to the human dimensions of climate change. Understanding the sensitivity to climate of people, communities, economic activities, or regions as well as the capacity to adapt provides insights into vulnerability or the potential for loss. This chapter explores vulnerability assessment and its influence on adaptation. First, a review of two chapters from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) provides background on vulnerability at the global and regional scale. The criteria developed to define vulnerabilities as “key” and the resultant regional vulnerabilities are reviewed. Water resources, food supply, coastal areas, human health, and ecosystems consistently emerge as vulnerable sectors. The section on North America demonstrates that developed countries have vulnerabilities to climate change—as well as adaptive capacity and adaptation challenges—not just developing countries. Examples are drawn from marine coastal areas. Next, the chapter reviews conceptualizations of vulnerability assessment from the natural hazards and climate change fields. These insights are applied in a case study of urban flooding in downtown London, Ontario, Canada, in the Upper Thames River Watershed. Three approaches are used to map vulnerability: natural hazards analysis, emergency preparedness planning, and adaptive capacity assessment. The adaptive capacity approach uses three quadrants of a vulnerability domain that considers internal socioeconomic and biophysical properties that make a system vulnerable as well as external biophysical factors acting upon the community. It assesses those human dimensions that affect the ability to cope with and respond to flooding. These approaches to framing and assessing vulnerability provide different information to the adaptation planning and decision making process. Designing robust adaptive responses requires broader consideration of the dimensions of vulnerability and improved understanding of the factors shaping vulnerability—particularly the human dimensions—in order to increase resilience in light of a changing climate.

Keywords

Geographic Information System Adaptive Capacity Vulnerability Assessment Vulnerability Index Flooding Hazard 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Adaptation and Impacts Research Section, Climate Research Division, Environment Canada, c/o Faculty of EnvironmentUniversity of WaterlooWaterlooCanada

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