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Global Change Impacts & Adaptation

Vulnerability Assessment

Understanding the vulnerability of natural and human systems to climate change provides the basis for adaptation planning. Vulnerability has three components: exposure, sensitivity, and adaptive capacity. Exposure is the degree to which natural and human systems experience changes in climate, such as changes in temperature, precipitation, or wind. Sensitivity is the response of the systems to those changes. For example, fish will be affected by increased water temperatures based on the degree to which they are exposed to those temperature increases, plus their sensitivity as determined by their innate (species-specific) tolerance. Adaptive capacity describes how much natural and human systems can adjust to climate changes. We work with EPA partners, researchers, and stakeholders to develop and test methods for vulnerability assessments focused on key environmental and societal concerns. This collaboration helps to ensure that methods and results are most relevant for informing decisions.

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