IUCN SSC Guidelines for Assessing Species' Vulnerability to Climate Change. Version 1.0

Predicting climate change impacts on biodiversity is a major scientific challenge, but doing so is important for assessing extinction risk, developing conservation action plans, providing guidance for laws and regulations, and identifying the mechanisms and patterns of impact to inform climate change adaptation. In the few decades since the threat of climate change has been recognised, the conservation community has begun assessing vulnerability to climate change.

There is no single ‘correct’ or established way to carry out climate change vulnerability assessments (CCVA) of species. A range of methods have been developed, and a large and burgeoning scientific literature is emerging on this subject. This document aims to ease the challenge that conservation practitioners face in interpreting and using the complex and often inconsistent CCVA literature.  The intended target audiences include conservation practitioners (e.g., for CCVA of their focal species or the species in their focal area) and researchers (e.g., for carrying out CCVA to serve conservation, or to evaluate the rigorousness of others’ studies).

These guidelines cover an outline of some of the terms commonly used in CCVA, and describe three dominant CCVA approaches, namely correlative (niche-based), mechanistic and trait-based approaches. This guide is structured to provide readers first with background information on definitions and metrics associated with CCVA. A discussion on identifying CCVA objectives follows, setting the stage for core guidance on selecting and applying appropriate methods. The subsequent sections focus on interpreting and communicating results, as well as suggestions for using results in Red List assessments and addressing the many sources of uncertainty in CCVAs. A final section explores future directions for CCVAs and research needs. The guide ends with ten case studies that provide essentially worked examples of CCVAs that cover the range of methods described.

This guidance document has been developed by a Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment working group convened under the IUCN Species Survival Commission’s Climate Change Specialist Group. The authors’ collective experience covers a broad range of ecosystems, taxonomic groups, conservation sectors and geographic regions, and has been supplemented by an extensive literature review. No guidance on this topic can be exhaustive, but nonetheless, this document should provide a useful reference for those wishing to understand and assess climate change impacts on their focal species, at site, site network and/or at broader spatial scales.

Identifying potential marine climate change refugia: A case study in Canada’s Pacific marine ecosystems

The effects of climate change on marine ecosystems are accelerating. Identifying and protecting areas of the ocean where conditions are most stable may provide another tool for adaptation to climate change. To date, research on potential marine climate refugia has focused on tropical systems, particularly coral reefs. We examined a northeast Pacific temperate region – Canada’s Pacific – toidentify areas where physical conditions are stable or changing slowly. We analyzed the rate and consistency of change for climatic variables where recent historical data were available for the whole region, which included sea surface temperature, sea surface height, and chlorophyll a. We found that some regions have been relatively stable with respect to these variables. In discussions with experts in the oceanography of this region, we identified general characteristics that may limit exposure to climate change. We used climate models for sea surface temperature and sea surface height to assess projected future changes. Climate projections indicate that large or moderate changes will occur throughout virtually the entire area and that small changes will occur in only limited portions of the coast. Combining past and future areas of stability in all three examined variables to identify potential climate refugia indicates that only 0.27% of the study region may be insulated from current and projected future change. A greater proportion of the study region (11%) was stable in two of the three variables. Some of these areas overlap with oceanographic features that are thought to limit climate change exposure. This approach allowed for an assessment of potential climate refugia that could also have applications in other regions and systems, but revealed that there are unlikely to be many areas unaffected by climate change.

Adaptation: An Issue Brief for Business

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report,1 Climate Change 2007: Synthesis Report, forecasts that climate change will have significant impacts on populations and environments around the world. Furthermore, it is likely that in the absence of concerted efforts to mitigate greenhouse emissions, climate change will have negative effects on business and global markets. It will likely lead to a change in existing business models and current risk management structures.

Members of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) have acknowledged climate change and its attendant implications. They are beginning to plan accordingly to minimize risks, improve adaptive capacity and resilience, leverage new opportunities and collaborate with the global community.

Over the last two decades, much attention has focused on the scientific evidence of climate change. More recently, attention has transitioned towards efforts needed to reduce anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases. There has been considerable progress made in measuring greenhouse gas emissions and developing methods and technologies to reduce them. A priority for business will be to continue to seek and implement pragmatic and sustainable solutions to mitigate the effects of climate change. These solutions include pursuing energy and process efficiency across operations, and developing innovative products and technologies.

Prior to the publication of the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report in 2007, adaptation to climate change had not garnered much attention. Indeed, the focus was on raising awareness and mitigation efforts. However, the Fourth Assessment Report established that even if we do succeed in reducing emissions, some climate change impacts are now unavoidable and solutions will be needed to adapt to them. The necessity for adaptation to climate change impacts gained momentum at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) 13th Conference of the Parties (COP13) Meeting in Bali, Indonesia in December 2007. One of the outcomes of this meeting was the establishment of a United Nations Adaptation Fund.

This publication is focused on providing an overview of adaptation from a business perspective.2 It describes potential impacts of climate changes, risks and opportunities for business, and why business should consider adaptation planning and measures. It summarizes intergovernmental efforts to promote adaptation in vulnerable regions and highlights areas in which business could have a role in promoting adaptation, both at community and global levels.

Global Marine Hotspots Network


Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies
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The Global Marine Hotspots Network was created because the oceans are not warming evenly and those areas that are warming the fastest – ocean warming ‘hotspots’ – can be considered as the world’s natural laboratories to provide the knowledge and tools to enable us to adapt wisely, efficiently, and effectively to meet the challenges of a warming environment. The Network was designed to better understand the impacts of climate change on commercial fisheries, which support coastal communities and global industries.

The MaPP initiative is a partnership between the Province of British Columbia and 17 member First Nations that developed marine use plans for B.C.’s North Pacific Coast. The MaPP region is divided into four sub-regions: Haida GwaiiNorth CoastCentral Coast and North Vancouver I

ASAP helps build essential climate resilience for communities across the country by focusing on connecting and supporting the individuals. We provide a platform for climate adaptation leaders to interact, share what’s working, and collaborate with their colleagues.

We founded Four Twenty Seven as a mission-driven business to provide innovative tools and services to organizations seeking to understand climate impacts, assess risks to their operations or their stakeholders, and increase their resilience by developing and implementing climate adaptation measures. Our team is constituted of risk analysts, climate change and adaptation experts who bring years of experience working on climate mitigation and adaptation in the energy, industry, agricultural and food sector.

The Southeast and Caribbean Climate Community of Practice (CoP) brings together individuals from local, state, and federal governments, academia, non-profit organizations and the private sector to apply climate science and assess how coastal communities and ecosystems can adapt to the impacts of climate variability and change. The CoP provides a forum for sharing lessons learned and best practices related to climate communication and adaptation.

Understanding Risk (UR) is an open and global community of 3,200 experts and practitioners interested and active in disaster risk assessment. Members represent more than 125 countries and include a range of sectors. The community convenes every two years at global forums, which provide organizations and individuals the opportunity to highlight new activities and initiatives, build new partnerships, and foster advances in the field of risk assessment.Understanding Risk 2014: Producing Actionable Information was held in London, UK.

ICF International provides professional services and technology solutions that deliver beneficial impact in areas critical to the world's future. We strive to maximize beneficial impact—for people, businesses, and governments—in areas that matter. As trusted partners, we advise, execute, and innovate to provide lasting solutions to our clients' and society's most challenging issues.