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CARAVAN: mapping vulnerability of the elderly to climate change in the Nordic region

Timothy R. Carter, Stefan Fronzek, Aino Inkinen, Ismo Lahtinen and Hanna Mela
Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE), Box 140, FIN-00251 Helsinki, Finland1


The elderly population (aged 65 and older), which is growing rapidly across the Nordic region, includes many individuals who are potentially vulnerable to the impacts of severe weather events such as heatwaves, cold spells, storms and floods. This case study aims to explore alternative approaches for describing and mapping vulnerability of the elderly to future changes in frequency or intensity of such events at the municipal scale across the Nordic region. It is primarily targeted at care givers and planners working at regional and national scale.
The project is a continuation of the CARAVAN2 study, which developed a web-based vulnerability mapping tool (Figure 1). Vulnerability of a system or population is described as a function of its exposure to climate change, its sensitivity to the impacts of that climate change, and its adaptive capacity to cope with the impacts. Quantitative indicators of each of these elements can be mapped and combined into indices of vulnerability at the present and for 2050. Typically, this involves combining climate information (defining exposure) with statistics representing socio-economic risk factors (adaptive capacity).  Rather than the research team making academic choices about these combinations, the user-interface allows end-users to make informed selections themselves. A prototype of the web tool was released for testing in November 2010, with interviews, a questionnaire and a stakeholder workshop used to obtain feedback about vulnerability of the elderly in general as well as features of the web tool in particular.


caravan screenshot


Figure 1: An example of the prototype CARAVAN web tool, depicting exposure/sensitivity of the elderly to climate change (left panel), adaptive capacity (central panel) and a combined vulnerability index (right panel).



1 SYKE's partners in the CARAVAN study were Karen O'Brien, Lynn Rosentrater, Ida Skivenes and Cathrine Ruud, Department of Sociology and Human Geography University of Oslo P.O. Box 1096, Blindern, 0317 Oslo, Norway, and Louise Simonsson, Centre for Climate Science and Policy Research, Linköping University, 601 74 Norrköping, Sweden.

2 CARAVAN (Climate change: a regional assessment of vulnerability and adaptive capacity for the Nordic countries) was a two-year collaborative project (2008-2010) funded from national sources in the Nordic-Call of the EU CIRCLE (Climate Impact Research Coordination for a Larger Europe) ERA-Net project. It is being extended in MEDIATION to explore, in more detail, the vulnerability of the elderly to climate change in the Nordic region. 

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