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Assessing risks and vulnerabilities to climate change

Undertake a climate change risks and vulnerability assessment

As a first step, available information for your country's future threats (e.g. sectoral vulnerability assessments) and opportunities should be collected and analysed. Several sources of information exist including assessments carried out at national level and within several research projects, the 2012 EEA assessment report on climate change impacts and vulnerability in Europe and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's (IPCC) 5th Assessment Report for state of the art scientific information on expected impacts, adaptation and vulnerability at global and European level.

If the available information base is not sufficient for elaborating adaptation responses, additional assessments might need to be carried out. Various approaches for risk assessments are available, e.g. from the UK and Germany. As a minimum request, the assessment should provide the following information:

  • Trend of various climate variables (e.g. average temperature, heat days, intensive rainfall events, snow cover), based on one or ideally on a range of different climate scenarios, for instance as developed in the Special Report Emission Scenarios (SRES) scenarios produced by the IPCC;
  • Expected (direct and indirect) impacts (threats, opportunities) by identifying the most relevant hazards as well as the areas of the country, region or city that are at most risk given an overlay of spatial distribution of total population, vulnerable populations, economic activities and economic value;
  • Timescale, with differentiated impacts expected in the short-term (2020s), medium-term (2050s), and long-term (2080s/2100);
  • An indication on the level of confidence (e.g. high, medium, low) for such impacts, with a view of facilitating the decision making process given the degree of uncertainty attached to the results;
  • Assessment of the socio-economic development and other non-climatic factors: Such factors, e.g. megatrends such as demographic change, use of resources, market trends, have a significant influence on a vulnerability to climate change.

Finally, it must be ensured that the climate risk assessment is tailored to policy-making needs. That is, it must be prepared introducing requirements for policy-relevant outcomes and end-user involvement. Policy-science interfaces can be fostered for a continuous dialogue on priority issues.

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