Tools and Methods

Submitted by Ruth Butterfield | published 5th Apr 2012 | last updated 13th Jan 2020

It is important to distinguish between tools aimed at climate impact assessments, for example crop models or water planning models, and methods designed specifically to collect local level information on social vulnerability, for example Cristal. Impact assessment tools can be useful in providing some of the biophysical information needed for a vulnerability assessment, however the results of these assessments should not be assumed to be equivalent to vulnerability. For example, the results of a crop model run for different climate scenarios will show how crop yields are expected to change, but tells us nothing about differences in the institutional relationships, social capital and access to decision-making which create different levels of vulnerability. It is also important to recognise that many tools and assessments have difficulty in capturing the dynamic nature of vulnerability. Knets is a tool which integrates data from participatory fieldwork with model-based techniques such as agent-based models in order to better represent vulnerability.

Recognition of the need to involve communities in vulnerability assessments if the outcome of a reduction in vulnerability is to be achieved has led to the development of number of methods for participatory vulnerability assessment (follow the link for a full discussions on participatory processes).

GIS is also increasingly being used as a tool to combine biophysical and social indicators of vulnerability, although there are issues to be explored around how to capture institutional relationships and social processes in a GIS context. From a sectoral point of view, the Newater  which project contains case studies and protocols for assessing vulnerability in the water sector provide useful examples of how to integrate social vulnerability into water resource planning. The EU MEDIATION project provides a Toolbox which is a structured database of methods and tools that are available to support the assessment of climate change impacts and vulnerability, and adaptation decision-making. 

The review of adaptation decision tools is broader than tools just to support vulnerability assessment, however does include several useful vulnerability examples. Several tools are listed here showing whether they can be used to assess biophysical elements of vulnerability, social vulnerability and also whether they can be used to screen adaptation options.