Assess Vulnerability & Risk

Steps to Resilience
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Consider potential tipping points

One way to help your group decide where to start is to determine which of your group’s assets are most likely to be damaged or degraded by a climate hazard. If damage to a specific asset has the potential to initiate a large change in the overall system, consider making that asset a top priority. 


Identify your most vulnerable or most important assets to protect. These are the ones for which you will characterize risk. You can view examples of vulnerability assessment reports on this site. Assessing vulnerability requires you to describe sensitivity and adaptive capacity for each asset.

  • Sensitivity is the degree to which a population or asset is susceptible or resistant to impacts from weather or climate events.
  • Adaptive capacity describes the ability of a system to cope with stress or adjust to new situations.

For example, when facing drought, agricultural producers who grow several types of crops that mature at different times of the year can adapt more easily than those who grow only one crop. The vulnerability tab of the prepared spreadsheet has additional examples.

Vulnerability will be high when sensitivity is high and adaptive capacity is low, or the potential for reaching a tipping point is high. Conversely, assets with low sensitivity and high adaptive capacity have low vulnerability.

Characterize risk

To characterize risk, you’ll need to estimate two more characteristics for your vulnerable assets: the probability of a loss, and the magnitude of the (potential) loss, financial and otherwise. 

To estimate the probability of a threat, consider how frequently it has occurred in the past. Consider also how climate change may change the frequency and/or severity of the threat over time. Tools described on this site can help: you can find tools to explore past and current conditions as well as check applied forecasts.

Decision point

Can you accept the risk climate presents to your assets? If not—CONTINUE ON TO STEP 3

Instructions on these pages encourage you to gather specific types of information. You may find it convenient to download this prepared spreadsheet and use it to record input as you move through the steps. 

Access the Steps to Resilience Glossary for definitions and examples of words related to resilience.

References for Steps to Resilience

Last modified
8 February 2021 - 9:16am