Know Climate Change

Adaptation and Mitigation


Identifying Key Vulnerabilities

Certain kinds of vulnerabilities capture the attention of policy makers, as they have certain characteristics which necessitate them to be considered as ‘key vulnerabilities’. However, to determine what kind of vulnerabilities are potentially ‘key’ or ‘dangerous’ requires scientific knowledge along with factual and normative elements (IPCC, 2007).

In general, the factual criteria include scale, magnitude, timing and persistence of harmful impacts (IPCC, 2007). On the other hand, normative criteria are influenced by perception of risk, which depends on cultural and social contexts.

IPCC identifies the following seven criteria from literature that can be used to identify key vulnerabilities.

  1. Magnitude of impacts: Magnitude of impacts is determined by its scale and intensity.
  2. Timing of impacts: It refers to impacts that are likely to happen sooner, rather than in the distant future.
  3. Persistence and reversibility of impacts: A harmful impact is considered to be ‘key’ if it is persistent and irreversible. For example, intensified cycles of flooding that were earlier considered as a ‘one-off’ event.
  4. Likelihood of impacts and vulnerabilities and confidence in their assessment: Likelihood is the probability of an outcome, and confidence is the subjective assessment that an outcome will prove correct. These two criteria are used for characterizing the uncertainty of climate change and its impacts.
  5. Potential for adaptation: It refers to the ability of individuals, groups, societies and the nature to adapt to, or reduce the adverse impacts of climate change.
  6. Distribution of vulnerabilities and impacts: Vulnerabilities and impacts that have significant distributional consequences are considered to be ‘key’ vulnerabilities.
  7. Importance of vulnerable system: It refers to the importance that different societies and people put on impacts and vulnerabilities of human and natural systems. For example, if livelihoods of many people are crucially dependent on a particular system, then vulnerabilities of that particular system will be considered as ‘key’. Vulnerabilities of other less crucial systems will not be considered as ‘key’.

With this, we have covered the concept of vulnerability. Now, let us proceed to discuss the important concept of adaptation.