Quantitative analysis of patterns of vulnerability to global environmental change

23-12-2010 | Publication

The impacts of global change, including environmental changes, pose increasing risks for people around the globe. In this context, we developed and applied a methodology to quantitatively assess the extent to which specific groups of people are vulnerable to losing their livelihoods.

Patterns of vulnerability bridge the gap between local case studies and global vulnerability assessments

Local vulnerability analyses are often based on case studies, while global vulnerability assessments are essentially based on aggregated data and rather crude assumptions about underlying mechanisms. Recognising the need and the potential for looking at similarities between related situations around the globe, the methodology generalises the outcomes of case studies towards patterns of vulnerability, using insights from global assessments.

A pattern of vulnerability is defined as ‘specific, representative patterns of the interactions between environmental change and human well-being’. To assess patterns of vulnerability, the methodology quantifies the core mechanisms that cause vulnerability using indicators from global Integrated Assessment Models. Different manifestations of the patterns and their geographic location are assessed through cluster analysis.

The methodology has been applied to the following four patterns of vulnerability: smallholder farming in dryland areas, overexploitation of natural resources, competition over land for food and biofuels, and rapid urbanisation in coastal areas. Insights gained from this study can give guidance to adaptation and mitigation policies in specific situations, and can serve as a reference for identifying the consequences of international policies for vulnerable groups.

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