Climate change is one of the biggest environmental and developmental challenges that the natural ecosystems and social-economic systems face. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate change (IPCC 2014), climate change is already occurring and impacting natural ecosystems and human societies. Further, climate change in the coming decades is likely to intensify, thereby adversely impacting food production, water resources, biodiversity and health.
Among various factors, vulnerability, which is determined by the sensitivity and adaptive capacity of the systems, can be addressed to overcome the adverse impacts of climate change. According to IPCC 2014, the “first step towards adaption to future climate change is reducing vulnerability and exposure to present climate variability”. According to multiple global climate risk assessments, India is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world. Therefore, it is important to understand the concept of vulnerability.
Terminologies for Vulnerability
- Adaptive Capacity (AC) : Adaptive capacity is the capacity of a system to adapt if the environment where the system exists is changing. It is applied to e.g., ecological systems and human social systems.
- Exposure (E) : The presence of people, livelihoods, species or ecosystems, environmental functions, services and resources, or economic, social or cultural assets in places and settings that could be adversely affected.
- Hazard (H) : The potential occurrence of a natural or human-induced physical event or trend or physical impact that may cause loss of life, injury or other health impacts, as well as damage and loss to property, infrastructure, livelihoods, service provision, ecosystems and environmental resources.
- Impact (I) : Effects on natural and human systems. It generally refers to effects on lives, livelihood, health, ecosystems, economies, societies, cultures and infrastructure due to the interaction of climate changes or hazardous climate events occurring within a specific time period and vulnerability of an exposed society or system. They are also referred to as consequences and outcomes.
- Risk (R) : The potential for consequences where something of value is at stake and where the outcome is uncertain, recognising the diversity of values. Risk is often represented as a probability of occurrence of hazardous events or trends multiplied by the impacts if these events or trends occur.
- Sensitivity (S) : Degree to which a system or species is affected, either adversely or beneficially by climate variability or change. The effect may be direct (e.g. change in crop yield in response to a change in the mean, range of variability of temperature) or indirect (e.g. damages caused by an increase in the frequently of coastal flooding due to sea level rise).
- Vulnerability (V) :Vulnerability in this context can be defined as the diminished capacity of an individual or group to anticipate, cope with, resist and recover from the impact of a natural or man-made hazard.
- Vulnerability Index (VI) : A metric characterising the vulnerability of a system. A climate vulnerability index is typically derived by combining, with or without weighting, several indicators assumed to represent vulnerability.