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Vulnerability assessment

A vulnerability assessment is the process of identifying, quantifying, and prioritising (or ranking) the vulnerabilities in a system.

In detail

Vulnerability assessments have many things in common with risk assessments. They are typically performed according to the following steps:

  1. Cataloguing assets and capabilities (resources) in a system.
  2. Assigning quantifiable value (or at least rank order) and importance to those resources.
  3. Identifying the vulnerabilities or potential threats to each resource.
  4. Mitigating or eliminating the most serious vulnerabilities for the most valuable resources.

The assessment of key vulnerabilities involves substantial scientific uncertainties as well as value judgements. It requires consideration of the response of biophysical and socio-economic systems to changes in climatic and non-climatic conditions over time (e.g. changes in population, economy or technology), important non-climatic developments that affect adaptive capacity, the potential for effective adaptation across regions, sectors and social groupings, value judgements about the acceptability of potential risks, and potential adaptation and measures.

To achieve transparency in such complex assessments, scientists and analysts need to provide a traceable account of all relevant assumptions.

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