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The determinants of vulnerability and adaptive capacity at the national level and the implications for adaptation

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N. Brooks
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This paper presents a set of indicators of vulnerability and capacity to adapt to climate variability using a novel methodology for assessing vulnerability to climate-related mortality. The indicators are based on empirical analysis of data aggregated at the national level on a decadal timescale. The analysis in the paper addresses the sensitivity of vulnerability assessments to different sets of subjective weightings. The report notes that the analysis is carried out using a conceptual framework in which risk is viewed as a function of physically defined climate hazard and socially constructed vulnerability. The report identifies key indicators of vulnerability by examining the statistical relationships between a large number of potential proxies for vulnerability, and measures of mortality outcome. The key indicators identified include:

population with access to sanitation
literacy rate, 15–24-year olds
calorific intake
voice and accountability
civil liberties
political rights
government effectiveness
literacy ratio (female to male)
life expectancy at birth

The paper also presents validation of the indicators through expert elicitation, and an assessment of the sensitivity of country rankings to different sets of weightings, based on subjective weightings generated by a focus group. It also gives a set of ‘‘most vulnerable’’ countries identified via an assessment of country rankings across a number of composite indicators, each constructed using a different set of weightings. The authors argue that sub-Saharan Africa faces extreme vulnerability. It also argues that within countries, vulnerability is geographically and socially differentiated, and processes that mediate the outcomes of hazard events operate at the local scale. The paper recommends that:

further research maybe essential to enhance understanding of vulnerability
national-level indicators must be complemented by locally contextual indicators to yield a full picture of vulnerability
 there is need for studies on the distribution of vulnerability, including the identification of vulnerability ‘‘hotspots’’ to complement this kind of analysis
specific measures and technologies for the promotion of adaptation will also be required
specific measures and technologies need to be determined in local contexts, and they should be targeted at specific localities, groups and sectors.