Defining Vulnerable Communities in the Context of Climate Adaptation

This resource guide was developed through the California Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR) Integrated Climate Adaptation and Resiliency Program (ICARP). The guide supports planners and decisionmakers in defining or identifying vulnerable communities in a climate change adaptation context. The report offers a summary of existing statewide climate vulnerability assessment tools to identify these frontline communities, and additional indicators that could be used to assess underlying vulnerability. 

The adaptive capacity of a community can be assessed by physical, social, and economic factors with various tools and indices which are detailed in the guide. California focused climate vulnerability assessment tools are reviewed which can be used to:

A Comparison table includes the social vulnerability indicators that are available for analysis through these assessment tools. The indicators are framed by greater “system factors” for example Poor environmental conditions, access to services, or living conditions. Some of the indicators for these conditions are: healthcare availability, housing crowding, tree canopy and supermarket access, for example.

The guide also maps the linkages to the indicators that are required elements of California SB 1000 to identify these at-risk communities. Senate Bill 1000 requires cities and counties of California to include an Environmental Justice element in their General Plans. All municipalities need to identify their “disadvantaged communities” and develop strategies to mitigate and reduce environment-related health risks on or after January 1, 2018. 

There are many additional indicators of social equity outside of these tools, that could also be leveraged when defining climate vulnerable communities. These indicators are listed under the topics of demographics, housing security, mobility, health services, environmental hazards, emergency services, business/jobs, public/private utilities, social services, governance, community, fiscal health, and culture. 


Publication Date: July 2018

Related Organizations:


Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Assessment guide
  • Indicators

States Affected:

Go To Resource