Feed the Future
This project is part of the U.S. Government's global hunger and food security initiative.

Climate Change Vulnerability Assessments

This post was written by Emily S. Weeks. Emily is a Natural Resource Management and Policy Specialist and AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellow in the USAID Bureau for Food Security Policy Division, Office of Agricultural Research & Policy.

A number of assessments have quantified the vulnerability of food security to climate change at regional scales using a range of complex modelling frameworks that integrate the outputs of global climate models, agro-ecological zone data and/or dynamic crop models, and socio-economic models. There is no standard method or framework for these assessments, and a variety of methods are being implemented at government, institutional, and organizational levels. Further, there are a number of limitations, including limited data and modeling parameters, which make projections highly uncertain. This also makes them difficult to compare and difficult to transfer from one context to another. Because of this, interpretation of results from any assessment should carefully consider whether and how each of the three components of vulnerability (exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity) were evaluated; if non-climate stressors were included in the assessment; how uncertainty is presented; and the geographic location covered by the assessment. 

Despite the limitations and uncertainties of vulnerability assessments, they remain a useful tool for policy development, and adaption planning. It is evident that climate change is likely to increase the number of people at risk of hunger in sub-Saharan Africa, which will cause the region to surpass Asia as the most food-insecure region. Vulnerability assessments can help prioritize efforts in response to these forthcoming challenges and can provide guidance in determining the most effective response to changing environmental conditions.

There is a range of material available on Climate Change Vulnerability Assessments (CCVAs); so much so that it can be overwhelming and difficult to know where to start. The following two reports provide the most up-to-date and comprehensive information on Climate Smart Vulnerability Assessments, and can be used as an introduction the range of information available on the topic: 

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) African and Latin American Resilience to Climate Change (ARCC) program conducted a review of a range of Climate Change Vulnerability Assessments. Their work brought improved science, methods, tools, and shared learning to the adaptation programming of USAID and its partners.

CGIAR’s research program on Climate Change Agriculture and Food Security also conducted a systematic review of vulnerability. Their findings provide guidance on the differences between different frameworks.

For additional information, resources and guidance on vulnerability analysis for Climate Smart Agriculture please contact Emily Weeks at (eweeks@usaid.gov).