ClimateWise Vulnerability Assessments

Do you need help identifying your community's vulnerabilities to extreme and unexpected events?

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Climate change is already affecting our communities through increasingly frequent and severe droughts, floods, extreme storms, sea level rise, and heat waves. And it is expected to worsen over the next few decades, even if we drastically reduce emissions today. While climate change is a global phenomenon, the impacts are local.

In addition to reducing emissions to prevent catastrophic impacts to future generations, we need to prepare communities for severe impacts by building resiliency at the local level.

One of the first steps in creating a resilient community is identifying what resources and populations are most vulnerable to climate change. Water supply, for instance, is often highly vulnerable to climate change in areas that rely on snowpack for water storage, and in areas where precipitation is expected to become less predictable over time. Most communities have existing stressors, such as poverty, unemployment, or pollution that can increase the vulnerability of certain populations and resources. These stressors also need to be considered.

Some people are more vulnerable to climate change than others. For instance, increased temperatures cause ground-level ozone to rise in areas that already have poor air quality. This can have severe health impacts for people with respiratory disease, heart disease, and asthma. The elderly and young children are often the most vulnerable.

Some important vulnerabilities to consider:

  • Dam and levee stability and risk to downstream residents from larger storms
  • Wildfire trends and increasing risk to people living in fire-prone areas
  • Economic impact of drought on agricultural and natural resources
  • Coastal structures, natural areas, and wildlife habitat at risk from sea level rise
  • Risk of heat-related mortality, especially among outdoor workers, elderly, and low income populations
  • Economic growth based on climate-sensitive businesses, such as skiing, tourism, or water-intensive industries

There are many more.

ClimateWise Vulnerability Assessment Process

Our ClimateWise team can help you identify vulnerabilities and assist you in increasing your community’s resilience in the face of changing conditions. 

We can also help you prioritize your risks based on potential severity, urgency, and your local values.

This is an important step that will allow you to make informed decisions about where to dedicate limited resources to protect people and their quality of life in your community.

Our process follows a tested approach to vulnerability assessment that considers three primary components: Exposure, Sensitivity, and Adaptive Capacity.

We start with Local Climate Change Projections that incorporate the latest science from leading institutions to provide you with information on likely future climate conditions in your community.  Science Assessments provide information that is useful for decision making at the local level, and they are written in language accessible to non-scientists. You can see an example of our Local Climate Change Projections here.

exposureExposure – In order to identify your community’s exposure to changing conditions, we start with Local Projections that compile the most up-to-date information on climate trends specific to your area, including an assessment of extreme events. Local Projections provide information that is useful for decision making at the local level, and they are written in language accessible to non-scientists. You can see an example of our Local Projections.

Sensitivity and Adaptive Capacity – ClimateWise scientists work closely with community experts and leaders to document the resources and populations of concern, as well as the sensitivity and adaptive capacity of each. The team brings this information to a facilitated workshop that helps community leaders from diverse sectors better understand the risks across all sectors of the community.

Vulnerability – Based on the Local Projections, identified risks to people and resources, important timeframes, and community values, workshop participants prioritize their vulnerabilities, thereby setting the stage for developing cross-sector solutions that will increase community resilience. We summarize the results of the vulnerability assessment in a report, informational graphics, and online resources.

The Bigger Picture

Once you complete a Vulnerability Assessment with our ClimateWise team, you will be ready to develop sound solutions that make your community more resilient. Local leaders often start with a vulnerability assessment to determine the level of urgency and resources to invest in proactively addressing this issue. That urgency can vary widely from community to community based on their unique situations. In any case, however, your community’s ability to respond quickly, effectively, and proactively to changing climate conditions, will play a big role in limiting the impact of climate change on the daily lives of your citizens. For more information on the next steps you can take after completing your vulnerability assessment, see Whole Community Planning and our ClimateWise Program.


The costs of vulnerability assessments vary by the availability of data for a specific locality, choices regarding thresholds your community would like analyzed, location, and local capacity. Vulnerability assessment packages that include written local climate change projections, an online dynamic presentation of those projections, in person workshop facilitation, and a final vulnerability assessment can often be done for between $40,000 and $60,000.


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