Brief overview of some existing national level vulnerability indices and indicators

Published: 3rd April 2012 16:09Last Updated: 3rd April 2012 15:09

Due to the broad range of definitions of the term 'vulnerability' and the different angles and disciplines from which it is operationalised, often different vulnerability indices are measuring different things. The type and number of indicators used to produce different indices, and how they are aggregated, will give a good idea of what type of vulnerability is being measured by any given index. This explains why some indices consider, for example, the Middle East to be the most vulnerable region in the world (VI-CRED), while others consider it to be one of the most resilient (DARA).

A selection of existing vulnerability indices are listed below, with the aim to give a general overview of their different concepts and visualisation approaches.

This index combines “life expectancy, educational attainment and income into a composite human development index (...) The breakthrough for the HDI was the creation of a single statistic which was to serve as a frame of reference for both social and economic development.”

 It is considered by Fuessel (2009) to measure social vulnerability to climate change at the national level more accurately than any other index.


The strength of the VI-CRED index is the use of very few but very relevant indicators (“climate-sensitive industries, the coastal share of population, and freshwater availability”), which are, in addition, publicly available data. Due to its accessible methodology, the results of this index are straightforward and easy to interpret (Stanton et al, 2011).

The CCVI “rates 166 countries on their capacity to mitigate risks to society and the business environment posed by changing patterns in natural hazards, such as droughts, flooding, storms and sea level rises and the resulting effects on ecosystems. (...) The index does not attempt to predict changes to patterns of natural hazards or ecosystems as a result of climate change, but instead measures how vulnerable a country is now and how well prepared it is to combat the impacts of climate change.”

GAIN looks at a country’s ‘Vulnerability’ to climate change and other non-climatic challenges (in the water, food, health and infrastructure sectors), and at its ‘Readiness‘ to enhance its resilience from an economic, social and governance perspective. It then aggregates the indicators of these two categories. 

The CVM analyses the impacts of climate change at a national level on health, weather disasters, human habitat loss and economic stress. It assigns a level (or “factor”) of vulnerability to each country/region, based on a scale it developed, from Low to Acute. The index analyses two points in time: 2010 and 2030, and has an emblematic way of depicting its results.

The EVI measures the integrity of ecosystems and analyses how it may be threatened by anthropogenic and natural hazards. It consists of 50 indicators. More indicators may be added to the list, as more data becomes available or new techniques are developed to identify relevant environmental vulnerability issues, which cannot not yet be measured. 

The Climate Change Vulnerability Index supports the identification of plant and animal species that are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change. It applies “readily available information about a species’ natural history, distribution and landscape circumstances to predict whether it will likely suffer a range contraction, population reductions, or both during the coming years.” 

Other existing vulnerability indices include the Tyndall Centre’s Social Vulnerability Index (SVI), the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research’s (CICERO) vulnerability index, FAO's FIVIMS and Germanwatch’s global climate risk index (CRI).

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