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Renewable Energy and Non Renewable Energy

New York, USA
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Distributed process modeling for regional assessment of coastal vulnerability to sea-level rise

Author(s): Bryan B, Harvey N, Belperio T, Bourman B

Abstract

Losses from environmental hazards have escalated in the past decade, prompting a reorientation of emergency management systems away from simple postevent response. There is a noticeable change in policy, with more emphasis on loss reduction through mitigation, preparedness, and recovery programs. Effective mitigation of losses from hazards requires hazard identification, an assessment of all the hazards likely to affect a given place, and risk-reduction measures that are compatible across a multitude of hazards. The degree to which populations are vulnerable to hazards, however, is not solely dependent upon proximity to the source of the threat or the physical nature of the hazard –social factors also play a significant role in determining vulnerability. This paper presents a method for assessing vulnerability in spatial terms using both biophysical and social indicators. A geographic information system was utilized to establish areas of vulnerability based upon twelve environmental threats and eight social characteristics for our study area, Georgetown County, South Carolina. Our results suggest that the most biophysically vulnerable places do not always spatially intersect with the most vulnerable populations. This is an important finding because it reflects the likely ‘social costs’ of hazards on the region. While economic losses might be large in areas of high biophysical risk, the resident population also may have greater safety nets (insurance, additional financial resources) to absorb and recover from the loss quickly. Conversely, it would take only a moderate hazard event to disrupt the well-being of the majority of county residents (who are more socially vulnerable, but perhaps do not reside in the highest areas of biophysical risks) and retard their longer-term recovery from disasters. This paper advances our theoretical and conceptual understanding of the spatial dimensions of vulnerability. It further highlights the merger of conceptualizations of human environment relationships with geographical techniques in understanding contemporary public policy issues.

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