Handbook of Research methods and Applications in Environmental Studies
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Handbook of Research methods and Applications in Environmental Studies

Edited by Matthias Ruth

This volume presents methods to advance the understanding of interdependencies between the well-being of human societies and the performance of their biophysical environment. It showcases applications to material and energy use; urbanization and technological transition; economic growth and social vulnerabilities; development and governance of social and industrial networks; the role of history, culture, and science itself in carrying out analysis and guiding policy; as well as the role of theory, data, and models in guiding decisions.
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Chapter 19: Vulnerability assessments

Deborah S.K. Thomas


Vulnerability assessments are a mechanism to evaluate risk, or the potential for loss from hazard events. In turn, they support risk reduction, guide building community resilience, support all phases of the emergency/disaster management cycle, and inform climate change adaptation. The term ‘vulnerability’ has many different definitions, and in a corresponding fashion, approaches towards conducting assessments can also vary significantly depending on the framing and the scale (local to global) at which they are conducted. The ultimate goal of conducting vulnerability assessments is to put valuable information into the hands of decision-makers, including the public, policy-makers, emergency managers, and numerous other members of a community with the goal of guiding vulnerability reduction. This chapter presents baseline definitions of terminology, reviews various approaches to hazard and vulnerability assessments, highlights opportunities and challenges, and presents some emerging technologies that have begun to play a role in assessments. Using three frameworks to guide the discussion, including risk reduction, climate change, and a capital-based disaster ecology model, this chapter focuses on local and regional place-based assessments that rely on mapping technologies, contending that involving the community vastly improves assessment quality.

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