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Vulnerability Assessment: Concepts and Techniques

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Title: Vulnerability Assessment: Concepts and Techniques


1
Vulnerability Assessment Concepts and Techniques
Motilal Ghimire, Ph.d Geomorphologist Central
Department of Geography Tribhuvan University,
Nepal Email motighimire_at_gmail.com
2
Acknowledgements
  • Hassan Virjee (START)
  • Tom Downing
  • Susan Cutter
  • Karen OBrien
  • Ian Burton
  • Anand Patwandhan
  • UNFCC, UNEP, UNDP
  • NAPA-GoN, CDES, and
  • others

3
Consequences of environmental change are not
uniform
  • Differ for different
  • People
  • Places
  • Times
  • Responses to the risks will also differ

Vulnerability varies
4
Vulnerability Assessment
  • Investigation of
  • causes of differential consequences and
  • responses to offset, lessen or prevent potential
    adverse consequences.
  • Seeks answers to questions such as
  • Who (or what) is vulnerable?
  • To what are they vulnerable?
  • Why are they vulnerable?
  • What responses can lessen vulnerability?
  • Input to build society and system resilient to
    climate change and disaster and other
    uncertainties

5
Why measure vulnerability?
  • Identify magnitude of threats, such as climate
    change
  • Guide decision-making on international aid and
    investment
  • Prioritize aid for climate change adaptation
  • Identify measures to reduce vulnerability.

6
Linking science and policy Who wants
information on vulnerability?
  • Where are the vulnerable?
  • Targeting geographical region,
  • Who are vulnerable?
  • Livelihoods at-risk, socio-economic class
  • What should be done?
  • Link climate policy to sustainable development
  • What is the future of vulnerability?
  • Exposure to global change, policy impacts

7
  • Vulnerability is used by most disciplines
  • Global change, Global environmental change,
  • Natural disasters, hazards,
  • Climate change studies,
  • Development and Poverty alleviation.
  • Ecosytem based adapataton
  • Various Concepts and Definition
  • Various application
  • Various methods and tools, indicators for
    measurement

8
Widening spheres of vulnerability
Multiple definitions and different conceptual
frameworks of vulnerability exist, because
several distinct groups have different views on
vulnerability.
9
Definitions of Vulnerability
  • the exposure to contingencies and stress, and
    difficulty in coping with them. Vulnerability
    thus has two sides an external side of risks,
    shocks and stress to which an individual or
    household is subject and an internal side which
    is defencelessness, meaning a lack of means to
    cope without damaging loss (Chambers 1989)
  • an aggregate measure of human welfare that
    integrates environmental, social, economic and
    political exposure to a range of harmful
    perturbations (Bohle et al. 1994)
  • Vulnerability the degree to which a system is
    susceptible to, or unable to cope with, adverse
    effects of climate change, including climate
    variability and extremes. (IPCC 2001)
  • Conditions determined by physical, social,
    economic and environmental factors or processes
    which increase the susceptibility of a community
    to the impact of hazards (UNISDR)

10
Vulnerability of whom to what ? Context specific
  • A working definition of vulnerability
  • susceptible to harm
  • Vulnerable of whom ? .of a particular
  • system, region or society, community, group
  • Vulnerability to what?.......of a specific
    event, phenomenon, impact
  • Climate change
  • Hazard and disaster
  • War,
  • Economic recession, etc

11
We can measure the vulnerability of
A population group to landslides, flood ,
earthquakes, drought, (Hazard)or famine
(Outcome) An agricultural system to drought
(hazard) or climate change and variability A
coastal area to sea level rise or flooding
impact Water resource and energy due to
Global warming induced Snow and melting
Social and ecological system of country to
global climate change
12
Elements of Vulnerability
  • Hazards
  • Risks
  • Capabilities/Resilience
  • Household capacities/resources
  • External resources that facilitate coping
  • Vulnerability Hazards x Risks
  • Capabilities

13
TWO APPROACHES TO VULNERABILITY AND ADAPTATION
ASSESSMENTS
Start Point
End Point
Ex National Adaptation Plan of Actions In LDC
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Climate change vulnerability
  • IPCC vulnerability framework
  • V f(E, S, AC)
  • E Exposure
  • S Sensitivity
  • AC Adaptive Capacity

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Social vulnerability
  • Depends on systems capacity to adapt to change
  • Is inversely related to adapative capacity (but
    may depend on factors such as sensitivity
  • Is a useful concept when assessing the
    vulnerability of a clearly defined group or
    system to a specific event
  • Focus on social, political, economic and cultural
    determinants of vulnerability.
  • Indicators include education, income, and other
    proxy data (social capital, livelihood
    diversification).

20
Biophysical vulnerability
  • Focuses on ecological processes, exposure to
    processes of physical change
  • Indicators include length of growing season
    frost days, intense precipitation, etc.
  • A function of the character, magnitude,
    frequency, sensitivity, and
  • Adaptive capacity of a system to the hazard to
    which is exposed.

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Global desertification
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Exposure
  • The degree of climate stress upon a particular
    unit of analysis
  • Climate stress
  • long-term climate conditions
  • climate variability
  • magnitude and frequency of extreme events

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Sensitivity
  • The degree to which a system will respond, either
    positively or negatively, to a change in climate.

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Adaptive Capacity
  • The capacity of a system to adjust in response to
    actual or expected climate stimuli, their
    effects, or impacts.

The degree to which adjustments in practices,
processes, or structures can moderate or offset
the potential for damage or take advantage of
opportunities created by a given change in
climate.
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Characteristics of vulnerability.
  • Vulnerability is
  • multi-dimensional (e.g. physical, social,
    economic, environmental, institutional, and human
    factors define vulnerability)
  • dynamic i.e. vulnerability changes over time
  • scale-dependent ( vulnerability can be expressed
    at different scales from human to household to
    community to country resolution
  • site-specific.

(Source UN-ISDR).
33
Units of analysis for a vulnerability assessment
Source Downing, 2011
34
Can vulnerability be measured?
  • Vulnerability is a characteristic, trait, or
    condition not readily measured or observable,
    thus we need proxy measures and indicators
  • Vulnerability is relative, not absolute
  • Everyone is vulnerable, but some are more
    vulnerable than others
  • Vulnerability relates to consequences or
    outcomes, and not to the agent itself
  • Defining levels of vulnerability that prompt
    actions or interventions is a social and
    political process.

35
Measuring vulnerabilityPractical challenges
  • How should indicators be chosen?
  • Are adequate data available?
  • How should composite indicators be developed?
  • How can measures of vulnerability be validated?
  • Are indicators redundant or collinear ?

36
Choosing indicators Deductive approach
  • Theory driven Start from theory or hypothesis
    find indicators that might support or reject the
    hypothesis.
  • Indeductive approach
  • Data driven Examine lots of data, look for
    patterns and examine correlations or statistical
    relationships. Generalizations can be used to
    develop conceptual models and theories
  • .

37
Dynamics of vulnerability
  • Vulnerability is dynamic indicators are often
    static.
  • Snapshots of vulnerability do not tell us who is
    becoming more vulnerable (or less vulnerable) as
    time goes on.

38
Current and future determinants of vulnerability
Source Hinkel et al, 2013
39
Methods of VA
  • Descriptive approaches, storylines, qualitative
    assessments, syndrome analysis,
  • Spatial assessments, quantitative assessments,
    indicator based assessments,
  • Computational indexes, models based on
    simulations, models based on scenarios, models
    based on storylines,
  • Multidisciplinary approaches and sectorial
    approaches, deductive or inductive
    approaches,
  • Start point or end point assessments,
    participatory and non-participatory approaches.

Source Segura, 2011
40
Tools of VA
Thomas E. Downing and Gina Ziervogel, 2004
41
2. Mapping Vulnerability
42
Why map vulnerability?
  • Vulnerability can be both socially and spatially
    referenced (it is associated with social and
    environmental phenomena, which often have
    locational components)
  • Measures of vulnerability can be visualized
    through mapping, and patterns can be identified
    and analyzed through spatial analysis (tomorrows
    lecture!).

43
How to map vulnerability?
  • Mental mapping
  • Remote sensing (NDVI)
  • Geographic Information Systems and Science (GIS)

44
The issue of scale
  • National scale assessments of vulnerability (to
    produce a global map)
  • Regional vulnerability assessments (e.g., West
    Africa, SAARC)
  • Sub-national vulnerability assessments (e.g.,
    Norway, India, Nepal)

45
When mapping vulnerability, how do we define and
assign different levels of vulnerability?
46
Issue that we will address
  • Normalization
  • Weighting
  • Classification

47
Normalization
  • HDI method (UNDP) Normalization to the range
  • But to which range?

48
Classification
  • Can exaggerate non-significant differences
  • Can hide significant differences

49
Social vulnerability 19602010.
Age, gender, caste/ethnicity, Education,
income, ability disability
Cutter S L , and Finch C PNAS 20081052301-2306
2008 by National Academy of Sciences
50
Environmental Vulnerability Index
The Environmental Vulnerability Index (EVI)
developed by the South Pacific Applied Geoscience
Commission (SOPAC) vulnerability to environmental
change (Kaly et al. 1999 and SOPAC 2005). Scale
of analysis is at the country level, excludes
the human systems, Measure of exposure
 50 indicators for EVI Sub indices Hazards,
resistance and damage  
Policy relevant sub indices
Climate Change CC Biodiversity CBD Water
W Agriculture and fisheries AF Human health
aspects HH Desertification CCD Exposure to
Natural disasters D
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Environmental Vulnerability Index
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Environmental Sustainability Index

Environmental systems, environmental stresses,
human vulnerability to environmental stresses,
Social and institutional capacity, and global
stewardship (Esty et al. 2005). Index uses 76
variables (or data sets) reduced to 21
sub-indices to create an overall sustainability
score by summing each sub-index and then taking
the average. Country rankings provide useful
information on the relative level of
sustainability,
http//www.vulnerabilityindex.net/EVI_Indicators.h
tml
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Environmental Sustainability
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The Human Development Index (HDI),
  • Examines the quality of life (for 177 countries)
    based on three dimensions of human development
    UNDP
  • health,
  • education and
  • income.
  • Four indicators reflect these dimensions of
    interest
  • life expectancy, adult literacy rate,
    educational enrollment, and GDP per capita.

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Data source in Use
Census data
Demographic vulnerability
Economic losses
Interviews/ Questionnaire
Income and income distribution
Access to early warning information
Field survey
Exposure of critical infrastructure
Local statistics
Exposure of settlement area, urban built-up,
cultivated land, forestry resources
Maps, imageries
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Vulnerability Indicators used by NAPA/ GoN)
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