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Decisions about how to adapt to the impacts of climate-related events like floods and heatwaves often rely on understanding only the physical exposure of people and places. University of Manchester research brought decision-makers fresh perspectives and new insights from map-based evidence of social vulnerability.



Mainstream risk assessments have largely focussed on assessing the likelihood, location and severity of hazards, and the extent of physical exposures. Far less consideration has been given to social vulnerabilities and their geographical distributions. Consequently, decision-making across a wide range of sectors and scales has taken little account of how individual, social and environmental factors might influence actual experiences, real outcomes, and specific local needs.



The research focused on the human dimensions of uneven impacts - as distributional injustices - and brought together concepts from climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction.

The resulting ethically and empirically grounded framework was applied to the case of UK flooding and heat-related events using comprehensive data and a range of spatial and other analysis techniques. Maps showed geographical distributions of Sensitivity; Enhanced exposure; Ability to prepare; Ability to respond; and Ability to recover.

The research identified severe regional and other geographical imbalances in social vulnerability and climate disadvantage across the UK.



Positive impacts on local planning, design and community action have occurred across a diverse user community, including Hull City Council, Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust, and Staffordshire County Council.

The research has influenced strategic responses, including by the Environment Agency; Regional Flood and Coastal Committees and NHS Scotland. Indicative examples include: TCPA/RTPI (define) National Planning Policy Framework guidance and Friends of the Earth’s analysis of climate-friendly areas.


More information 

Institution: University of Manchester

Researchers: Professor Sarah Lindley, Joseph Kandeh, Alexandra Kazmierczak, Angela Connelly, Nigel Lawson

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How to cite

Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) (2023) Climate Just: shaping more socially-aware responses to climate change. Available at  Last accessed on: <date>