Vulnerability is the degree to which a system is susceptible to, and unable to cope with, adverse effects of climate change, including climate variability and extremes. Vulnerability is a function of the character, magnitude, and rate of climate change and variation to which a system is exposed, its sensitivity, and its adaptive capacity.
Vulnerability to climate change refers to the propensity of human and ecological systems to suffer harm and their ability to respond to stresses imposed as a result of climate change effects. The vulnerability of a society is influenced by its development path, physical exposures, the distribution of resources, prior stresses and social and government institutions. All societies have inherent abilities to deal with certain variations in climate, yet adaptive capacities are unevenly distributed, both across countries and within societies. The poor and marginalised have historically been most at risk, and are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Vulnerability assessments can be used to identify, quantify and prioritise (or rank) the vulnerabilities in a system.
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- IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, Working Group 2 report Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability Chapter 19