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

UNEP Handbook on Methods for Climate Change Impact Assessment and Adaptation Strategies

The UNEP methodology establishes a generic framework for thinking about and responding to the problems of sea level rise and climate change.

The user goes through the following seven guiding steps:

  1. Define the problem;
  2. Select the method;
  3. Test the method;
  4. Select scenarios;
  5. Assess the biogeophysical and socioeconomic impacts;
  6. Assess the autonomous adjustments;
  7. Evaluate adaptation strategies.

The last step is itself split into seven substeps. At each step, methods are suggested but the choice is left up to the user.

Appropriate Use

This approach is useful in a range of situations, including subnational, or national level studies. It could comprise the first study, or follow earlier studies such as those completed using the IPCC Common Methodology.

The possibility of a quick screening assessment followed by a more detailed vulnerability assessment has been suggested. Information gathered with this methodology can then be used as input for future modeling.

Scope Coastal; and scale; sub-national, national, regional and global analysis.
Key Output

Evaluation of a range of user-selected impacts of sea level rise and potential adaptation strategies according to both socioeconomic and physical characteristics.

Key Input Qualitative or quantitative physical and socioeconomic characteristics of the national coastal zone.
Ease of Use Fairly simple framework. As the level of analysis is not prescribed, the ease of use will depend on the level of analysis that is attempted.
Training Required Depends on user expertise and the level of analysis that is attempted, but it is likely that some training is required to complete the seven steps.
Training Available No formal training currently offered, although technical assistance is available for countries within the UNEP program.
Computer Requirements No explicit requirements, although using information in this framework for future modeling will require computers.

Feenstra, J., I. Burton, J. Smith, and R. Tol (eds.). United Nations Environment Programme, Nairobi, and Institute for Environmental Studies, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam. (Version 2.0) pdf-icon

Klein, R.J.T. and R.J. Nicholls. 1998. Coastal zones. Chapter 7 in Handbook on Methods for
Climate Change Impact Assessment and Adaptation Strategies (Version 2.0).


Used in several countries, including the Cameroon, Antigua and Barbuda, Estonia, Pakistan, Cuba, Grenada, Guyana and Barbados.

Contacts for Framework, Documentation, Technical Assistance

Dr. Michiel van Drunen

Institute for Environmental Studies, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam; Tel: +31.20.5989534; e-mail:

Cost No cost to obtain documentation.

Klein, R.J.T. and R.J. Nicholls. 1999. Assessment of coastal vulnerability to climate change. Ambio, 28(2):182-187.

Klein, R.J.T., R.J. Nicholls, and N. Mimura. 1999. Coastal adaptation to climate change: Can the IPCC Technical Guidelines be applied? Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, 4:51-64.

Klein, R.J.T., R.J. Nicholls, S. Ragoonaden, M. Capobianco, J. Aston, and E.N. Buckley. 2001. Technological options for adaptation to climate change in coastal zones. Journal of Coastal Research 17(3):531-543.

Nicholls, R.J. 1998. Coastal Vulnerability Assessment for Sea-Level Rise: Evaluation and Selection of Methodologies for Implementation. Technical Report TR098002, Caribbean Planning for Adaptation to Global Climate Change (CPACC) Project.