Climate change will have multiple impacts across a range of systems and sectors, and will increase vulnerability of populations in many regions. Maps synthesizing climate, biophysical, and socioeconomic data have become part of the standard toolkit for communicating climate risks. So-called “hotspot” maps are often used to direct attention to areas where impacts are expected to be greatest and potentially require adaptation interventions. Under the advent of the Green Climate Fund and other bilateral climate adaptation funding mechanisms, potentially billions of dollars of adaptation funds are being directed with guidance from modeling results, visualized, and communicated through maps and spatial decision support tools. However, the methods and tools used to create vulnerability maps have not been systematically evaluated, nor have the map outputs in terms of communications efficacy.
This project will conduct a meta-analysis (assessment) of existing vulnerability mapping efforts focused on two aspects. Firstly, we will assess the methods used for the integration of spatial data representing climate exposure, biophysical systems, and social vulnerability in an effort to identify good practices. Secondly, we will assess the output maps according to standard criteria of cartographic design, clarity of communication, inclusion of information on uncertainty, and other criteria. The team will analyze at least 50 mapping efforts at different scales, created both by team members and by external parties. A secondary goal will be to establish a protocol for assessing map comprehension and policy impacts of maps through interviews with end users. The results will help to improve climate vulnerability maps and online map tools in ways that will facilitate science–policy communication.