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Norgaard I 206
Climate Impact Assessment/Economic theories/social sciences: Early global climate change impact assessments focused principally on climate‐society interactions drawing heavily from the tradition of natural hazards research (e.g. Burton et al. 1978)(1). As outlined in a now‐classic book edited by Kates et al. (1985)(2), the key challenge of climate impact assessment is to isolate climate sensitivities in biophysical and social systems. The influence of any given climate stress is therefore traceable through direct influences on biophysical attributes, to sequential (and more indirect) impacts on social activities and attributes (Kates et al. 1985)(2). This approach formed the basis of much of the research in the 1980s and 1990s by the climate change research community, and eventually evolved into a framework of ‘vulnerability’ assessment adopted by the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] (Carter et al. 1994)(3).
Climate impact assessment was designed to be compatible with climate change modeling and simulation experiments, emphasizing the mechanisms and processes by which a specific climate signal translates into a measurable impact on the biophysical environment (e.g. crop yields, streamflow, forest growth) and, through the material and economic ties of society to a resource, into (second‐ or third‐order) social and economic impacts (Carter et al. 1994)(3). Integrated modeling of climate change impacts typically focused on specific geographic regions, scaled to a spatial resolution where climate parameters could be well understood and modeled, and often focused on a specific suite of biophysical or economic measures where the mechanism of climate influence could be directly argued (e.g. Rosenberg 1982(4); Rosenzweig 1985(5); Liverman et al. 1986(6)).
Norgaard I 207
Estimates of proxies for social processes such as demographic change and technological innovation were incorporated into these models to parameterize projections of greenhouse gas emissions and anticipate changes in the sensitivities of key system drivers. Serious critiques of this modeling approach emerged surrounding the realism of the underlying assumptions of human behavior (Dowlatabadi 1995(7); Berkhout and Hertin 2000(8); Kandlikar and Risbey 2000(9)).



1. Burton, I., Kates, R. W., and White, G. F. (eds.) 1978. The Environment as Hazard. New York: Oxford University Press.
2. Kates, R. W., Ausubel, J. H., and Berberian, M. (eds.) 1985. Climate Impact Assessment: Studies of the Interaction of Climate and Society. SCOPE 27. Chichester: Wiley.
3. Carter, T. R., Parry, M. L., Harasawa, H., and Nishioka, S. 1994. IPCC Technical Guidelines for Assessing Climate Change Impacts and Adaptations, 59. Department of Geography, University College London and Center for Global Environmental Research, National Institute for Environmental Studies, London, UK, and Tsukuba, Japan.
4. Rosenberg, N. J. 1982. The increasing CO2 concentration in the atmosphere and its implication on agricultural productivity, Part II: Effects through CO2‐induced climatic change. Climatic Change 4: 239–54.
5. Rosenzweig, C. 1985. Potential CO2‐induced climate effects on North American wheat‐producing regions. Climatic Change 7: 367–89.
6. Liverman, D., Terjung, W. H., Hayes, J. T., and Mearns, L. O. 1986. Climatic Change and Grain Corn Yields in the North American Great Plains. Climatic Change 9: 327–47.
7. Dowlatabadi, H. 1995. Integrated assessment models of climate change. Energy Policy 23(4/5): 289–96.
8. Berkhout, F., and Hertin, J. 2000. Socio‐economic scenarios for climate impact assessment. Global Environmental Change 10: 165–8.
9. Kandlikar, M., and Risbey, J. 2000. Agricultural Impacts of Climate Change: If Adaptation is the Answer, What is the Question? An Editorial Comment. Climatic Change 45: 529–39.



Polsky, Collin and Hallie Eakin: “Global Change Vulnerability Assessments: Definitions, Challenges, and Opportunities”, In: John S. Dryzek, Richard B. Norgaard, David Schlosberg (eds.) (2011): The Oxford Handbook of Climate Change and Society. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution.
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Social Sciences
Norgaard I
Richard Norgaard
John S. Dryzek
The Oxford Handbook of Climate Change and Society Oxford 2011


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