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Workshop on Coastal vulnerability and resilience to climate change

8-9 April, 2013

The objective of the workshop is to bring together the scientific community specialised in vulnerability and resilience issues. Special issues of environmental journals such as Ecology and Society (Anderies et al., 2006) and Global Environmental Change (Jansen and Ostrom, 2006; Gallopin 2006) have already suggested analytical approaches to investigate the complementarities between these two notions. Workshop discussions will focus on coastal risk and coastal adaptation to climate change, including the specific issue of inundation due to sea‐level rise. Highly coveted and heavily developed at the expense of its rich biodiversity, the coast offers an interesting context for such discussions.


The IPCC defines vulnerability as "the degree to which a system is susceptible to, or unable to cope with, adverse effects of climate change, including climate variability and extremes. Vulnerability is a function of the character, magnitude and rate of climate variation to which a system is exposed; its sensitivity and its adaptive capacity (". This adaptive capacity includes both preventive measures and the population's perceptions with new concerns regarding risk memory and awareness and adaptation policies. Taking climate change into account strengthens the systemic nature of coupled human‐environment systems (Turner et al., 2003). Consequently, resilience and vulnerability must be coupled to build a dynamic approach to vulnerability with progressive measures and public policies. The issue of vulnerability affects in particular the spatial components, especially through the notion of environmental proximity (Beaurain and Longuépée, 2006) and the characterization of populations exposed to the risk (Vinet et al., 2011). In fact, "the management of environmental problems often involves the ingredients of organized proximity" (Torre and Zuindeau, 2009), which facilitates the implementation of regulatory mechanisms and relates to the issue of territorial governance. However, the long term nature of climate change requires that the temporal dimension be strengthened. In this context, linking with research on resilience offers interesting avenues to work towards formalising a dynamic approach to vulnerability. In particular, the issues of adaptation thresholds and individual and collective learning must be emphasised. Finally, the question of concept appropriation could be debatted. Given its negative nature in terms of political communication, the notion of vulnerability has failed to be appropriated. Decision‐makers may perhaps be more responsive to the notion of resilience, which is sometimes seen as the positive side of vulnerability, even though they remain focused on prevention and structural protection.

Meeting Structure: We propose a two‐day meeting, which aim is to prepare a special session for the 2014 symposium and to write collective communications focusing on:

  • methodological exchanges on respective outputs and coverage of vulnerability and resilience
  • the comparison of experience and field work
  • a comparison of the literature across disciplines or types of riskThe first day will be open to the public. It will be devoted to keynote speakers (notably from the Resilience Alliance network) and French researchers reviewing approaches and issues. These presentations will be followed by discussions. The second day will be devoted to small‐group multidisciplinary workshops in order to prepare collective summary papers on specific issues. It will be limited to selected researchers.   

Venue: Université Paul Valéry - Saint Charles, Montpellier, France