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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Mapping Vulnerability

My colleagues and I had a paper accepted to the journal Sustainability Science* this week that discusses some of the opportunities and risks associated with the growing practice of mapping vulnerability to climate change. In that paper, we highlight some of the limitations of vulnerability indices often used in mapping studies as well as the questionable utility of such metrics for actual decision-making on adaptation.

Coincidentally, just this week, I also came across a recent World Bank study entitled, Mapping Vulnerability to Climate Change, which develops a vulnerability index and applies it to Tajikistan. The World Bank study illustrates quite nicely many of the problems we raised with vulnerability mapping practice, from ambiguous vulnerability indices to unfounded claims regarding the decision-relevance of the analysis to a lack of consideration for future changes in biophysical and/or socioeconomic states.

One would assume that the World Bank is capable of more rigorous work, and if this is the type of information upon which future decisions regarding the prioritization of investments in adaptation are going to be based, should be worried?

*Preston BL, Yuen EJ, Westaway R (2011) Putting Climate Change Vulnerability on the Map: A Review of Approaches, Benefits, and Risks. Sustainability Science, in press.

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