Sources of information for national climate change vulnerability assessments

Submitted by Sukaina Bharwani | published 25th Mar 2011 | last updated 30th Jul 2014

This page provides an overview of available data sources for use in vulnerability and adaptation assessments. Most of these links pertain to information on biophysical hazards and data availability means that most of these sources are more appropriate for national level assessments. A variety of participatory methods are available to collect and assess information of relevance to social vulnerability. By its nature this information is very local and context specific, therefore will not be already available.

General Overviews

Good initial places to look for information are the UNFCCC National Communications and National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPAs) as both are useful country-led assessments of climate change and adaptation , and are documents which synthesise country-relevant data on climate change. Searching for a specific country on the UNFCCC site will allow you to see the status of their National Communications and NAPAs, as well as whether they have national climate change websites.

NAPAs are country-driven assessments which have been submitted by 45 LDCs (as of Sep 2011) and which focus on 'urgent and immediate needs regading adaptation to climate change. They give an overview of climatic trends and future scenarios for the country, and identify the key areas of vulnerability, along with adaptation needs. NAPAs are also a good initial source of references for country-specific adaptation activities.The quality of assessment in the NAPAs varies, and in particular some of the early assessments rely on the output of a single climate model (see here for why is not a good idea)

National Communications are another good background source of information and are available for a wider range of countries than the NAPAs. National Communications contain information on greenhouse gas emissions, climate change scenarios for the country, potential impacts across sectors and adaptation options in different sectors. many developing countries are in the process of developing their second National Communications, thus providing updated information.

World Bank country environmental factsheets provide concise overviews of environmental indicators in a range of countries. General country information which may be useful background to understanding vulnerability and adaptation can be found in the Human Development Reports.

Current and Future Climate

There are many sources of data for current and future and future climate. We recommend getting some background through the articles in the using climate information initiative, before visiting the Climate Information Portal run by the University of Cape Town. CIP provides a wealth of data on historic climate conditions for different met stations as well as climate projections for a range of models and scenarios from both Global Circulation Models and downscaled techniques which provide information at a more local level. A large amount of guidance material is also available on how to interpret this data.

SERVIR is a useful source of climate and biophysical data, especially for Latin and Central America. It allows various variables to be mapped including climate projections and land cover. The World Bank Climate Portal is another source of historical climate data and climate projections, as providing information on some climate impacts, such as maize growth. Several international projects such as ENSEMBLES, CECILIA (Eastern Europe) and CIRCE (Mediterranean) and CORDEX have all undertaken regional climate modelling assessments for different areas of the world. Although in most cases the data used will not be available, there will be summary reports detailing climate projections and impacts in different areas.

For climate change scenarios and regional-country level vulnerability and adaptation the relevant IPCC chapters provide a useful synopsis and list of references. For IPCC predictions of climate change at a regional level first of all check Chapter 11 of the Physical science report. For general information on impacts, adaptation and vulnerability by region or by sector, with good further references and illustrative case studies see the outputs from working group 2

Disasters

Good data on the frequency and impact of disasters at a country level can be found on the website of the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED).

Participatory Methods

These national level data sources are mainly aimed at providing the context within which community level information for vulnerability assessments can be set. This includes information on the interacting and multiple stressors which contribute to vulnerability (see the case study in Sekhukune, South Africa for an example). Data is unlikely to be available at this scale, so a variety of methods are available for community level vulnerability assessment.