Framing vulnerability and adaptive capacity assessment: Discussion paper.

Framing vulnerability and adaptive capacity assessment: Discussion paper. Report

CSIRO Climate Adaptation Flagship Working paper

  • Author(s): Preston, B. L., Stafford Smith, D. Mark
  • Published: 2009

Abstract: The purpose of this discussion paper is to briefly highlight various perspectives regarding key concepts associated with climate change vulnerability and adaptation, as well as some of the commonly used methodologies and frameworks for assessing vulnerability, adaptive capacity and risk. It was first written in March 2008 as part of a project by the CSIRO Climate Adaptation Flagship which aimed to build a shared understanding of relevant adaptation concepts and methods, and their utility for facilitating different adaptation challenges. One of the central concepts in adaptation research is that of vulnerability. However, there are significant disciplinary differences with respect to how vulnerability is defined and framed. In some instances, it refers to biophysical vulnerability and is thus well-aligned with the concepts of hazard, exposure or event risk. In other uses, however, it emphasises social, economic, cultural and/or political processes that are more aligned with the concepts of resilience, coping capacity, and/or adaptive capacity. Still others employ more integrated conceptualisations of vulnerability as embodiments of both biophysical and socio-economic processes that collectively create the potential for harm. While there is likely little utility in being overly pedantic about definitions, different ways of framing vulnerability do influence assessment methods and, subsequently, information for decision-makers and how it is interpreted. Hence, attempts to develop some level of general agreement about vulnerability may be useful to researchers and end-users alike.

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Suggested Citation
Preston, B. L., Stafford Smith, D. Mark, 2009, Framing vulnerability and adaptive capacity assessment: Discussion paper., Report, viewed 05 December 2023,

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