Windfeld, E.J., Ford, J.D., Berrang-Ford, L. and McDowell, G. 2019. How do community-level vulnerability assessments treat future vulnerability and integrate diverse datasets? A review of the literature. Environmental Reviews, 27(4), pp. 427-434.
Community-level vulnerability assessments (VAs) are important for understanding how populations experience vulnerabilities to climate change in different ways given local socioeconomic and environmental factors. Despite recent expansion in the literature that evaluates vulnerability at the local level, approaches to understanding future scenarios and to integrating climatic and nonclimatic factors are inconsistent and often lack clear methodological information. This study utilized systematic review methods to characterize and compare future scenarios and the integration of climatic and nonclimatic stimuli in community-focused VAs published over the last five years. Five common methods for assessing future dimensions of vulnerability were characterized. Key challenges regarding sources and scales of information were highlighted alongside methods to integrate data spanning climatic and nonclimatic information at scales ranging from local to global. The majority of VAs considered current and past vulnerability; few VAs incorporated future scenarios and these studies focused on future climatic conditions while largely overlooking changes in nonclimatic drivers of vulnerability. Approaches to evaluate future dimensions of vulnerability included climate model projections, socioeconomic model projections, temporal analogue approaches, longitudinal approaches, and local perceptions. These methods often failed to capture the dynamic interactions between variables through time, as future impacts are unlikely to follow previous patterns of change. To combine datasets of different scales, VAs created vulnerability indices, overlaid spatial datasets, or used expert judgement. These approaches tended to aggregate local characteristics to the regional level at the expense of community specificity. There is a need for methodological advances to assess future scenarios and to combine datasets in the field of community-level climate change VAs to make these studies more responsive to local realities and relevant to the development of climate change adaptation strategies.