Guidance for Assessing Vulnerability

Submitted by Ruth Butterfield | published 25th Jan 2012 | last updated 13th Jan 2020
Workshop Mali

If you are looking for guidance on how to go about assessing vulnerability, specifically vulnerability to shocks and stresses associated with climate variability and climate change, in the process of planning and supporting climate adaptation initiatives then here are some resources you may find useful.

The links below outline steps to be taken when assessing vulnerability to climate hazards. This approach is described from a livelihoods point of view for the initial framing but the approach could be used for a national analysis for example see the case study on water resources in Mali and a further example from Nepal from the Advancing Capacity to support Climate Change Adaptation project (ACCCA).

Step 1: identify climate vulnerability exposure
Step 2: assess climate conditions and trends
Step 3: identify hazards
Step 4: analyse impacts of climate change
Step 5: understand trends in the climate

Another approach, the Rapid vulnerability assessment protocol was developed as part of the Newater project, specifically to rapidly assess the vulnerability of river basins in Europe and North Africa. The approaches however can be applied in many situations, sectors with different users and spatial scales.

Click through to have a look though some other vulnerability guidance manuals and vulnerability analysis papers we have begun to collect for comparative purposes. And to get some ideas of where to go for sources of information as a starting point for vulnerability assessments and national climate change overviews, check here.

In order to assess how climate change might impact certain livelihood groups, it is necessary to establish the degree and range of exposures of current livelihoods to climate hazards. By ranking hazards according to their level of impact one is able to prioritise the key climate hazard(s) to address - this is what a livelihood-sensitivity matrix is designed to do. Much of the information needed about the climate hazard can be found on the Climate Information Portal in user friendly format. This information can be used to plan adaptation options, by responding to the projected climate trends, whilst accounting for the degree of uncertainty associated with these projections. 

It is important to bear in mind that vulnerability is dynamic, and is caused by the interaction of multiple stressors, not simply climate. One of the tools SEI Oxford has been working with in an effort to capture these aspects better in an analysis of vulnerability is KnETS.

Through people engaging with this initiative in weADAPT we hope to expand and refine this guidance materials further, based on a growing set of experiences, to make the guidance materials more useful to the various contexts within which people are conducting vulnerability assessments and planning adaptation strategies. 

Once you have identified vulnerabilities you are likely to need to develop and choose adaptation options. Guidance on this process is summarised on this page.

Link to adaptation planning

Vulnerability assessment is the first step towards developing an adaptation strategy. The next question is how to move from the identification of key vulnerable groups and activities to developing and choosing practical adaptation options. Guidance on this process in this initiative is summarised on this page.