Conceptual elements of climate change vulnerability assessments: a review

Marta Bruno Soares, Alexandre S. Gagnon, Ruth M. Doherty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose – The concept of vulnerability in climate change literature is underpinned by numerous theoretical contributions across different disciplines leading to disparate understandings of what climate change vulnerability entails, as well as different methodological frameworks for assessment. This multiplicity of contributions helped not only to frame and shape different understandings of vulnerability but also to define the conceptual and analytical elements considered as critical in any climate change vulnerability assessment. The purpose of this paper is to review the literature on climate change vulnerability and explore and synthesize those conceptual and analytical aspects considered fundamental in a vulnerability assessment in climate change.Design/methodology/approach – Drawing on existing literature on climate change vulnerability and vulnerability assessment frameworks, the paper provides a review of the conceptual elements regarded as critical in integrated assessments of climate change vulnerability to date.Findings – A review of the existing literature identified nine critical elements in vulnerability assessments: the coupled human‐environment system and place‐based analysis; key components of vulnerability; multiple perturbations; scales of analysis; causal structures of vulnerability; engaging stakeholders; differential vulnerability; historical and prospective analysis; and dealing with uncertainty. The paper concludes by highlighting some of the remaining challenges and limitations for the development of integrated vulnerability assessment in climate change research.Originality/value – The paper presents a synthesis that draws on existing literature on climate change vulnerability theory, as well as vulnerability assessment frameworks that attempt to apply those concepts in the assessment of climate change vulnerability.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6-35
Number of pages30
JournalInternational Journal of Climate Change Strategies and Management
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2012


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