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Entry point I

Identifying adaptation needs

At the first stage of the adaptation learning cycle, the adaptation problem or decision to make has yet to be precisely formulated. This stage focuses on understanding the risks and opportunities for natural systems and human activities posed by climate change. It requires the use of methods and tools that analyse the possible impacts of climate change on the one hand, and the capacity to adapt to such changes on the other.

Entering at the first stage of the adaptation learning cycle means that an adaptation problem or decision has not yet been identified. Rather, tasks need to be carried out to gain further knowledge on the climate change related vulnerability and impacts in order to identify a problem or decision that then may be addressed in later stages. As it is assumed that the specific problem has not been identified, it is difficult to give clear-cut guidance, and both impacts and capacity analysis may be relevant.

One complication for giving guidance at this stage is that the academic literature as well as other guidances and policy documents use the broad label of "vulnerability" for referring to many diverse tasks and methods. There is much confusion around the term vulnerability and a great deal of effort and conceptual work has not resolved this (see e.g. O'Brien et al., 2007; Wolf et al., 2012). Assessing vulnerability can mean anything from projecting impacts to carrying out an institutional analysis. The concept is therefore not useful for giving unambiguous methodological guidance.

Instead, this guidance treats the tasks and methods for assessing vulnerability under a couple of more specific names. Vulnerability methods that make use of impact models are treated under the name impact analysis. Vulnerability methods that refer to understanding the institutional context, including political, social and economic factors that structure individual choices are subsumed under methods for institutional analysis (Hinkel and Bisaro, 2013a). These include methods for assessing "social vulnerability" considering rights, entitlements and power in the analysis (e.g. Bohle et al., 1994; Ribot et al., 2005). We therefore use vulnerability only in an intuitive sense in this document and refrain from using it to refer to specific methods or tasks. The same applies for what are commonly called the components of vulnerability, such as, exposure and sensitivity (Parry et al., 2007).

Entry point

Adaptation situation:
  • Climate change is a concern, but a specific adaptation problem or decision has not yet been identified.
This is what you want to do:
  • You want to generate knowledge on vulnerability and impacts relevant for adaptation.