The Tribal Climate Health Project (TCHP) offers trainings and resources designed to help Tribes prepare for anticipated health and other impacts of climate change, including completing a climate change vulnerability assessment. The information below summarizes key steps to completing a vulnerability assessment alongside resources that can make it easier for Tribes to conduct this important work.
Vulnerability is the degree to which natural, built, and human systems are susceptible to, or unable to cope with, adverse effects of climate change. Through adaptation, negative health and other climate effects can be prevented. Adaptation plans move communities towards a state of preparedness and resilience.
The first step in adaptation planning is usually to conduct a vulnerability assessment, which uses available information to identify and prioritize anticipated climate impacts on a community given its location, sensitivities, and existing capacity to adapt.
There is no one right way to do a vulnerability assessment and it doesn’t have to be a linear process. After reviewing many approaches, Tribal Climate Health Project recommends generally following the six steps outlined below (refer to full trainings for a complete overview).
STEP 1: DETERMINE OBJECTIVES AND SCOPE
This particular TCHP training can help you think through how to start the process of a Vulnerability Assessment.
■ Get direction: Did specific direction come from a Council? Consider a resolution (see ITEP’s Tribal Climate Change Resolution Template)
■ Designate lead staff: Authority and relationships matter
■ Identify potential roles: Of necessary staff, contractors, advisors, partners, stakeholders, etc …
■ Assess resources, capacity and limitations: Do you need a grant (see this database of assistance programs that can help Tribes conduct climate work)? If you have a grant, are there limitations, deliverables or other requirements?
■ Set parameters of assessment:
- Individual or collaborative
- Comprehensive or focused on specific:
- Exposures of concern (watch TCHP’s trainings on Temperature Extremes, Wildfire, Drought, Storms & Flooding, and Melting Ice and Sea Level Rise)
- Impacts types of concern (health/social, natural, built environment)
- Key assets
A quick scan of the TCHP’s Exposures, Impacts and Strategies (EISI) Tool can help you consider possible exposures, impacts and assets that may be relevant to your Tribe. Browsing through TCHP’s Youtube Playlists is another way to familiarize yourself with basic climate vulnerability information. (Coming soon: TCHP’s Tribes, Health, and Climate Change Short-Video Series)
STEP 2: ENGAGE THE COMMUNITY
■ Establish planning team: Include key Tribal departments and outside advisors (including health!) that can help identify vulnerabilities and ultimately leverage resources to implement adaptation strategies. Early inclusion can lead to long term commitment! TCHP’s Directory of Technical Assistance Providers can help you identify outside advisors that may be able to provide support at no cost.
■ Engage community members (elders, youth, partners):
- Active engagement: Gather knowledge and observations and learn about key concerns and most valued assets. TCHP’s Climate Vulnerability Experiences and Priorities Survey template can help you easily obtain relevant input and information from your community
- Passive engagement: See how the Pala Environmental Department provides climate change information to its community
STEP 3: IDENTIFY KEY INDICATORS
■ Determine what will you measure: Consider what indicators will help you understand vulnerabilities
The TCHP’s Exposures, Impacts and Strategies (EISI) Tool provides an extensive inventory of possible indicators to consider for measuring exposures, impacts, population sensitivity and adaptive capacity that may be relevant to your Tribe.
STEP 4: GATHER AND ANALYZE INFORMATION
■ Find the best data to tell the story: We recommend a “braided approach”
- Internal information: Gathered through community engagement (Step 2)
- Traditional knowledges
- Local observations
- Tribal reports, studies, and data/maps
- External information:
The TCHP’s Exposures, Impacts and Strategies (EISI) Tool helps navigate you to the best known publicly accessible data sources for exposures, impacts, population sensitivity and adaptive capacity that may be relevant to your Tribe.
STEP 5: PRIORITIZE VULNERABILITIES
■ Determine who will rank (high, medium, low)
■ Establish criteria to evaluate
■ Use all indicator data to make ranking decisions
■ Factor in whether the impact will affect community assets ranked as highly important to protect
The TCHP’s Exposures, Impacts and Strategies (EISI) Tool is designed to help you prioritize each vulnerability using the data gathered.
STEP 6: SYNTHESIZE AND PRESENT RESULTS (OPTIONAL)
■ Incorporate visuals, stories and quotes: to make the document compelling to community members and decision makers
■ Consider how to use and protect propriety traditional knowledge information
■ Present report: to decision-makers and seek direction and resources to complete adaptation plan
The TCHP provides a sample Climate Change Vulnerability Report (in Word) developed for the Pala Band of Mission Indians. Feel free to customize it for your community.