Year : 2011  |  Volume : 15  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 142--143

Climate change vulnerability: Index and mapping

Harshal T Pandve, PS Chawla, Kevin Fernandez, Samir A Singru 
 Department of Community Medicine, Smt. Kashibai Navale Medical College, Narhe, Pune, India

Correspondence Address:
Harshal T Pandve
Department of Community Medicine, Smt. Kashibai Navale Medical College, Narhe, Pune - 411 041, Maharashtra

How to cite this article:
Pandve HT, Chawla P S, Fernandez K, Singru SA. Climate change vulnerability: Index and mapping.Indian J Occup Environ Med 2011;15:142-143

How to cite this URL:
Pandve HT, Chawla P S, Fernandez K, Singru SA. Climate change vulnerability: Index and mapping. Indian J Occup Environ Med [serial online] 2011 [cited 2022 Nov 30 ];15:142-143
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Full Text

Dear Sir,

Climate change is one of the most critical global challenges of our times. Recent events have emphatically demonstrated our growing vulnerability to climate change. [1] This brief letter attempts to discuss indices and mapping as tool for mitigation and adaptability toward climate change vulnerability.

Vulnerability may be defined as the extent to which a natural or social system is susceptible to sustaining damage from climate change. It is generally perceived to be a function of two components, i.e. the effect that an event may have on humans, referred to as capacity or social vulnerability, and the risk that such an event may occur, often referred to as exposure. Vulnerability has two aspects, an external risk (shock to which an individual or community is subject) and internal risk (lack of means to cope). The net impact may be positive for resilience or negative to become vulnerable. Among the human activities, agriculture activities are considered to be the most sensitive to climatic conditions and to climatic variability. [2] As per Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), vulnerability is degree to which a system will respond to a given change in climate including beneficial and harmful effects. It is also a degree to which a system is susceptible to or unable to cope with adverse effects of climate change including climate variability and extremes. [3]

A vulnerability index for the natural environment, the basis of all human welfare, has been developed by the South Pacific Applied Geoscience Commission (SOPAC), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and their partners. The index was developed through consultation and collaboration with countries, institutions, and experts across the globe. This index is designed to be used with economic and social vulnerability indices to provide insights into the processes that can negatively influence the sustainable development of countries. The reason for using indices for this purpose is to provide a rapid and standardized method for characterizing vulnerability in an overall sense, and identifying issues that may need to be addressed within each of the three pillars of sustainability, namely environmental, economic, and social aspects of a country's development. Development is often achieved through trade-offs between these pillars. Therefore, in order to promote sustainability, it has become increasingly important to be able to measure how vulnerable each aspect is to damage and to identify ways of building resilience. With this information to hand, the outcome for countries could be optimized for their unique situations and development goals. [4] Recently the new Climate Change Vulnerability Index (CCVI), released by global risks advisory firm Maplecroft. A new global ranking, calculating the vulnerability of 170 countries to the impacts of climate change over the next 30 years, identified some of the world's largest and fastest-growing economies, including India, as facing the greatest risks to their populations, ecosystems, and business environments. It evaluated 42 social, economic, and environmental factors to assess national vulnerabilities across three core areas. These include: exposure to climate-related natural disasters and sea-level rise; human sensitivity, in terms of population patterns, development, natural resources, agricultural dependency and conflicts; thirdly, the index assesses future vulnerability by considering the adaptive capacity of a country's government and infrastructure to combat climate change. The index rates 16 countries as "extreme risk," which included Bangladesh, India, Madagascar, Nepal, Mozambique, Philippines, Haiti, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, Myanmar, Ethiopia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Malawi, and Pakistan. [5]

The mapping of vulnerability may involve the indicators selected for mapping and representing the vulnerability at a particular spatial unit. Vulnerability of a country, community, or group may be assessed, mapped, and represented by using modern tools such as remote sensing and Geographical Information System (GIS). [2] Climatic hazard maps for five climate related risks-tropical cyclones, floods, landslides, droughts, and sea level rise are generated. Population density is used as the proxy for human sensitivity to climate hazard exposure. The extent of protected areas is considered the proxy the ecological sensitivity of the respective sub-national areas. An index of adaptive capacity is also created, as a function of socio-economic factors, technology, and infrastructure. The socio-economic variables comprise the Human Development Index (income, literacy, and life expectancy), poverty, and inequality. [6] In another study, Samson et al. used spatially explicit models of the present relationship between human population density and climate along with forecasted climate change to predict climate vulnerabilities over the coming decades. Strongly negative impacts of climate change are predicted in Central America, central South America, the Arabian Peninsula, Southeast Asia, and much of Africa. Importantly, the regions of greatest vulnerability are generally distant from the high-latitude regions where the magnitude of climate change will be greatest. Furthermore, populations contributing the most to greenhouse gas emissions on a per capita basis are unlikely to experience the worst impacts of climate change, satisfying the conditions for a moral hazard in climate change policies. Regionalized analysis of relationships between distribution of human population density and climate provides a novel framework for developing global indices of human vulnerability to climate change. The predicted consequences of climate change on human populations are correlated with the factors causing climate change at the regional level, providing quantitative support for many qualitative statements found in international climate change assessments. [7]

To conclude with, considering the ever increasing vulnerability to climate change it is of foremost importance to develop various tools like mapping and indices for mitigation and adaptability on frequent basis and using these for policy making and implementation.


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5Big economies of the future - Bangladesh, India, Philippines, Vietnam and Pakistan - most at risk from climate change. Available from: [Last accessed on 2011 Jul 18].
6Climate change vulnerability map of Southeast Asia. Economy and Environment Program for Southeast Asia (EEPSEA); International Development Research Center (IDRC). Available from: [Last accessed on 2011 Jul 18].
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