Vulnerability Assessment

Introduction

This Information Sheet provides information on Topic 3: Conducting Climate Change Vulnerability Assessments.

The following information sheets are part of this series:

  • Topic 1: Climate Change Introduction
  • Topic 2: Climate Change Modelling
  • Topic 3: Conducting Climate Change Vulnerability Assessments

In the previous two topics of this module you would have been provided with a more detailed introduction to climate change and how different types of climate change modeling processes are conducted. In this topic, we will focus on the methodology for conducting a climate change vulnerability assessment.

By the end of this topic, you will understand the following:

  • Impacts of climate change on different sectors, including agriculture, biodiversity, health, infrastructure, and water.
  • Understanding climate change vulnerability assessment methodologies
  • Assessing exposure to Climate Change risks as part of the Vulnerability Assessment for specific areas within Mohale’s Hoek
  • Assessing sensitivity and adaptive capacity to Climate Change risks as part of the Vulnerability Assessment for specific areas within Mohale’s Hoek
  • Prioritising Climate Change risks as part of the Vulnerability Assessment for specific areas within Mohale’s Hoek
  • Interpreting Mohale’s Hoek Risk and Vulnerability Assessment

Key themes

Climate change Vulnerability Assessment

A climate change vulnerability assessment is a way of identifying and prioritising impacts from climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) defines vulnerability as:

“Vulnerability to climate change is the degree to which geophysical, biological and socio-economic systems are susceptible to, and unable to cope with, adverse impacts of climate change ” (Parry et al. 2007)

A vulnerability assessment lets you identify these adverse impacts of climate change that are most important to your area.

There are four steps to conducting a vulnerability assessment, there are:

  • Step 1: Identify potential impacts of indicators
  • Step 2: Assess whether the impact will take place (exposure)
  • Step 3: Assess how important the risk is (sensitivity)
  • Step 4: Assess if you can respond to the risk (adaptive capacity)

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Applying the climate change vulnerability assessment methodology

Step 1: Identify indicators

The first step in a Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment is to develop a set of indicators. Indicators are a list of potential impacts that may take place in your area as a result of climate change. A draft list of climate change indicators have been developed for the RVCC programme. The indicators have been grouped into sectors and are listed below. The purpose of this list of indicators is to provide a starting point for the Vulnerability Assessment. Please add, subtract and edit the indicators as you see fit for your particular area.

 

Agriculture

No Indicator Title Indicator Description
1 Change in grain (maize and wheat) production Increased temperatures and changes in rainfall are likely to result in a significant decline in major crops of maize and wheat especially in the foothills and lowlands.
2 Change in Sorghum production Increased temperatures and changes in rainfall are likely to result in a decline in sorghum production. However, sorghum is a drought resistant crop and can tolerate erratic rainfall.
3 Change in Soya Bean Production Increases in temperature and rainfall may result in more areas in Lesotho becoming suitable for soybean production
4 Change in fruit production Projected reduction of the area suitable for fruit production
5 Change in other crop production areas (e.g. vegetables, nuts, etc.) Increased temperatures and changes in rainfall are likely to result in a significant decline in major crops of beans and peas especially in the foothills and lowlands. Other crops such as vegetables and nuts may also be affected.
6 Increased areas for commercial plantations The total area suitable for commercial forestry plantations will increase with changes in climate
7 Increased exposure to pests such as eldana, chilo and codling moth Increase in crop and livestock pests as a result of changes in temperature and humidity
8 Increased risks to livestock Projected decreases in rainfall and hence herbage yields would result in negative health impacts for livestock.
9 Reduced food security Reduced food security, particularly of subsistence farmers, and resultant increased malnutrition.

Biodiversity and environment

No Indicator Title Indicator Description
10 Increase in Soil Degradation Increased storm events and increasing pressure on arable and grazing land resulting in soil degradation
11 Loss of Grassland Biome Grassland Biome to be replaced by the Savanna Biome under a high risk scenario.
12 Increased impacts on threatened ecosystems Loss of threatened ecosystems due to changes in climate.
13 Increased impacts on environment due to land-use change Loss of biodiversity and degradation of natural habitat due to significant land-use change (such as alien invasion, soil erosion, urbanisation etc.) which impacts on the ability to respond to climate change.

Human health

No Indicator Title Indicator Description
15 Health impacts from increased storm events Increased storms (including snowstorms, heavy rainfall and lightning) will result in increased risk of injuries, drowning and population displacement impacts.
16 Increased heat stress Increases in average temperatures and extreme events (such as heat waves) are projected to induce heat stress, increase morbidity, and result in respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.
17 Increased vector-borne diseases from spread of mosquitoes, ticks, sandflies, and blackflies Vector-borne diseases are projected to spread within regions bordering current vector borne areas, which are presently too cold for transmission.
18 Increased water-borne and communicable diseases (e.g. typhoid fever, cholera and hepatitis) Favourable conditions for the incubation and transmission of water-borne diseases may be created by increasing air and water temperatures.
19 Increased malnutrition and hunger as a result of food insecurity Climate Change will affect food systems, compromising food availability, access and utilisation, leading to food insecurity (particularly of subsistence farmers).
20 Increased air pollution Health impacts resulting from exposure to air pollutants, especially in dry conditions, include eye irritation, acute respiratory infection, chronic respiratory diseases and TB, and sometimes death.
21 Increased Occupational health problems Temperature is a common climatic factor that affects occupational health (for example, agricultural labourer’s productivity) by causing heat stress and dehydration.

Human settlements and infrastructure

No Indicator Title Indicator Description
22 Loss of industrial and labour productivity Direct impacts of weather on construction, electricity generation and other industries, resulting in loss of productivity.
23 Increased impacts on strategic infrastructure Increased disruptions to key strategic infrastructure (e.g. Wastewater Treatment Works, stormwater systems, roads, rail, bridges, etc.) as a result of extreme weather events.
24 Increased impacts on traditional and informal dwellings Increased risk of extreme weather events to already vulnerable traditional and informal dwellings, that are often unplanned, and without extensive service or infrastructure.
25 Increased isolation of rural communities Physical isolation of rural communities as a result poor rural roads and increased flooding and erosion.
26 Increased migration to urban and peri-urban areas Increased migration from rural settlements to urban and peri-urban settlements.
27 Increased risk of wildfires Increased risk of wildfires linked to higher ambient temperatures, dry spells and more frequent lightning storms.
28 Decreased income from tourism Reduced income from tourism as a result of reduced recreational opportunities and increased impact on tourism-supporting infrastructure, such as conservation area access roads.

Water

No Indicator Title Indicator Description
29 Decreased quality of drinking water Deterioration in water quality due to increased salt concentrations in dams, wetlands and soil/plant systems from enhanced evaporation rates.
30 Decreased water quality in ecosystem due to floods and droughts More frequent floods result in increased effluent overflow into rivers. Increased drought means less water is available to dilute wastewater discharges and irrigation return flows to rivers.
31 Less water available for irrigation and drinking Increased periods of drought mean less water is available.
32 Increased impacts of flooding from litter blocking stormwater and sewer systems Human health and ecosystem impacts, associated with increased rainfall intensities, flash floods and regional flooding resulting in litter and washed-off debris blocking water and sanitation systems.
33 Increased fish mortality Increased freshwater fish mortality due to reduced oxygen concentrations in aquatic environments and mortality of temperature-sensitive fish species.

Step 2: Assess whether the impact will take place (exposure)

The second step in the climate change vulnerability assessment refers to the concept of “Exposure”. Now that we know what the list of all potential impacts are (Step 1), we need to determine whether or not we are exposed to the particular climate change impact. We can ask the question, “Will this particular impact take place in my area?”

Exposure is usually scored using a yes/no answer. If we consider an example indicator from the human settlement sector, Increase impacts on Informal Dwellings, for exposure we would ask the question: “Do we have informal dwellings in the area?”. The answer to the exposure question can be determined using resources such as the RVCC Data website or other related reports, and our general knowledge of the area.

Step 3: Assess how important the risk is (sensitivity)

Once we have assessed our exposure (step 2) we can consider sensitivity. Sensitivity refers to the seriousness of the potential impact from climate change. A way to assess sensitivity is to ask the questions, “If the climate change impact will take place in my area, how important will this impact be?”

Sensitivity is usually scored using a high, medium or low rating. In the Vulnerability Assessment Tool, each indicator has a proposed way of scoring sensitivity as high medium or low. If we consider an example indicator from the human settlement sector, Increase impacts on Informal Dwellings, for sensitivity we would ask the question: “What percentage of households live in informal dwellings?”. The answer to the sensitivity question may require more recent statistics and local knowledge.

Step 4: Assess if you can respond to the risk (adaptive capacity)

The fourth step in the climate change vulnerability assessment refers to the concept of “Adaptive Capacity”. Now that we know what the list of all potential impacts are (Step 1), whether or not we are exposed (Step 2), if we are exposed how sensitive is the issue (Step 3), we need to determine whether or not we have the systems in place to respond to the climate change impact. Do do this, we can ask the question, “Do I have systems in place to respond to the impact?”.

The IPCC defines Adaptive Capacity as the “ability of a system to adjust to climate change to moderate potential damages, to take advantage of opportunities, or to cope with the consequences”. (Parry et al. 2007)

Adaptive Capacity is usually scored using a high, medium or low rating and we usually consider four different types of systems, namely Research, Policy, Institutional Support, Finance and Community. If we consider an example indicator from the human settlement sector, Increase impacts on traditional and informal dwellings, for adaptive capacity we would ask the following questions:

  1. Is there local research on the particular climate change risk (e.g risks to traditional and informal dwellings)?
  2. Are there robust policies & programs in place to deal with the particular climate change risk (e.g risks to traditional and informal dwellings)?
  3. Are there institutional systems to deal with the particular climate change risk (e.g risks to traditional and informal dwellings)?
  4. Is there financial support for the particular climate change risk (e.g risks to traditional and informal dwellings)?
  5. Is there adaptive capacity within the community to deal with the particular climate change risk (e.g risks to traditional and informal dwellings)?

The Adaptive Capacity score is a summary of average High, Medium and Low scores of this different questions.

Additional support material

Lesotho Agriculture Sector Summary

Lesotho Biodiversity and Environment Summary

Lesotho Human Health Summary

Lesotho Human Settlements and Disaster Sector Summary

Lesotho Water Sector Summary

Lesotho Socio-Economic Sector Summary

References

Parry, M.L., O.F. Canziani, J.P., Palutikof, P.J., van der Linden, and C.E. Hanson. 2007. “Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.” Cambridge University Press. Available at: https://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg2/en/contents.html

Key terms

Exposure Assessment of whether a particular climate change impact will take place in an area. i.e. Will Mohale’s Hoek be exposed to an increase in temperatures? (Usually answered Yes or No)
Sensitivity Assessment of the severity/importance of a climate change impact in an area. i.e. If an increase in temperatures is experienced, how sensitive will the area be to that impact? (Usually answered High, Medium, or Low Sensitivity)
Adaptive Capacity Assessment of whether an area has the resources to be able to respond or cope with a particular climate change impact. i.e. If the impact takes place, are there human resources, finances, and policies to be able to adapt to the impact of increased temperatures?  (Usually answered High, Medium, or Low Adaptive Capacity)
Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment A methodology used to help determine the most important climate change impacts for an area.