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Compendium on methods and tools to evaluate impacts of, vulnerability and adaptation to, climate change

Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Common Methodology (CM)

Widely used framework for vulnerability assessment first proposed in 1991. CM incorporates expert judgment and data analysis of socioeconomic and physical characteristics to assist the user in estimating a broad spectrum of impacts from sea-level rise, including the value of land and wetlands lost. It presents a list of analyses that should be done, but does not explicitly instruct the user on how to perform the analyses. Information from this methodology is generally used as a basis for further physical and economic modelling.

The user follows seven steps:

  1. delineate the case study area;
  2. inventory study area characteristics;
  3. identify the relevant socioeconomic development factors;
  4. assess the physical changes;
  5.  formulate response strategies;
  6. assess the Vulnerability Profile;
  7. identify future needs.

Adaptation focuses around three generic options: retreat, accommodate or protect.

Appropriate Use This approach is most useful as an initial, baseline analysis for country level studies where little is known about coastal vulnerability.
Scale CM can be used in sub-national, national, regional and global analysis.
Key Output Vulnerability profile and the list of future policy needs to adapt both physically and economically. A range of impacts of sea-level rise, including land loss and associated value and uses, wetland loss, etc.
Key Input Physical and socioeconomic characteristics of the study area.
Ease of Use Requires considerable knowledge on a range of techniques for estimating biophysical and socioeconomic impacts of sea level rise and adaptation. It has been criticised and redesigned by several groups of researchers.
Training Required Significant training required to complete the seven steps (weeks or months); often performed by external consultants rather than in-country experts.
Training Available No formal training currently offered.
Computer Requirements Methodology does not explicitly state how to perform analyses; analytical method chosen by the user will determine the computer needs.
Documentation Original documentation from 1991 is unavailable. Update provided in IPCC CZMS (1992).
International studies

IPCC CZMS (1992), Nicholls (1995, 1998a, 1998b), Bijlsma et al. (1996), Nicholls and Mimura (1998), Klein and Nicholls. (1999).

Contacts for Framework, Documentation, Technical Assistance

Coastal Zone Management Centre

P.O. Box 20907, NL-2500 EX, The Hague, The Netherlands; Tel: 1.70.311.4364, Fax: 31.70.311.4380.

Cost No cost to obtain documentation.

Used in many coastal countries. Examples of studies: Harvey et al.(1999a), Harvey et al (1999b), Kay et al. (1996), Kay et al. (1992), McLean and Mimura (1993), Morvell (1993a, 1993b), Waterman (1996), Woodroffe and McLean (1993).