To understand the vulnerability of urban populations to climate change, it is imperative to first understand what constitutes vulnerability. With respect to climate change, vulnerability is defined in terms of three elements:
•The exposure of a system to crises, shocks and stresses.
•The ability of a system to cope with these perturbations.
•The outcomes and risks that accompany poor system recovery.
Urban areas are the primary source of greenhouse gas emissions. The vulnerability of urban populations to climate change as a result of these emissions, are leading researchers and experts to discover new ways to enable these populations to adapt to the changing climate by looking at the availability of resources not only to control these emissions, but also to increase the capacity to cope with the consequences of global warming and climate change. Because urban areas are the drivers of global warming, with a high concentration of industries, transportation and households, these areas also hold the key to develop new ways of understanding the effects of global warming and climate change, and the steps that need to be taken to counter it.
Researchers at the Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED) have tracked an increase in climate-related disasters, including droughts, floods and windstorms. Till recently, the focus of climate change policy has been on mitigating the effects of climate change, particularly in densely populated urban areas, primarily by introducing more stringent measures to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases. While mitigation is crucial to make climate change policy successful, equally important is the development of adaptation measures.
Many factors are responsible for bringing about change and adaptability. Of all of them, political will and the availability of human and financial resources are the most important. When these three important factors come together, they facilitate effective action and reduce the vulnerability of urban populations to the attendant hazards of climate change. Another important factor that impacts adaptability is urban planning and development. When the focus is on planning that is in line with climate change initiatives, the vulnerability of urban populations is effectively reduced.