Vulnerability and risk: comparing assessment approaches

Research paper by Sarah Wolf

Indexed on: 07 Sep '11Published on: 07 Sep '11Published in: Natural hazards (Dordrecht, Netherlands)


The concepts vulnerability and risk are of great importance in the fields of climate change and natural hazards. Confusion is asserted in the terminology used by the respective communities, and a large conceptual literature has not solved this problem. This affects the communication within and between the two communities and the comparison of results from vulnerability and risk assessments. This paper argues that the main difference between methods to assess vulnerability and risk in the climate and the disaster communities is not a conceptual one, but rather different terminologies are used. This point is made using a formal framework of vulnerability to climate change that makes the structure of vulnerability and risk assessments explicit. The framework distinguishes three assessment approaches in the field of vulnerability to climate change, which recur—under different labels—in the risk assessment approaches analysed. While within each community, the same terms are ambiguously used to refer to more than one assessment approach, the confusion is enhanced between the two communities by using different labels for very similar approaches. As an application of the results, similarities and differences between two assessment tools are analysed: the Dynamic Interactive Vulnerability Assessment model (DIVA) for the case of vulnerability to climate change and the CATastrophe SIMulation model (CatSim) for risk of natural hazards.