IUSSP Seminar on Demographic Vulnerability to Natural Disasters in the Context of Climate Change Adaptation

Kao Lak, Phang Nga, Thailand, 23-25 April 2014

This second Seminar sponsored by the IUSSP Panel on Climate Change, was hosted jointly by the College of Population Studies, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, and the Wittgenstein Centre for Demography and Human Capital (IIASA, VID/ÖAW and WU) (WIC), Vienna. The Seminar was held in Kao Lak, Phang Nga, Thailand over 2½ days during 23-25 April 2014. 


Seminar Organizers were Prof Wolfgang Lutz, member of the IUSSP Panel on Climate Change and founding director of WIC, and Dr Raya Muttarak, research scholar at WIC.


There were 42 participants, including three speakers in the roundtable discussion representing local stakeholders. The participants, mainly researchers and doctoral students, came from across the globe.




The main objective of the Seminar was to bring together researchers working in the area overlapping between population dynamics, response to natural disasters, and adaptation to climate change to strengthen the application of analytical tools in demography in studying demographic and socio-economic differentials to the field of risk, vulnerability and climate change. 


The seminar program was organized around 4 research themes:


  • Differential impacts of natural disasters on mortality, loss, damage and recovery
  • Differential coping strategies including migration
  • Case study of differential vulnerability and how to best prepare for environmental change in Thailand
  • Vulnerability and risk assessment: micro- and global-level and projection


There were 9 sessions in total. The first day of the seminar addressed how the impacts of natural disasters and climate change were distributed unevenly across population subgroups and how coping strategies vary with demographic characteristics. Half a day of the second day was dedicated to the case study of differential vulnerability in the coastal zones in Thailand’s context including a roundtable discussion with local stakeholders. The last three sessions were related to vulnerability and risk assessments both at the micro- and global-level and in comparative perspective including projection of future vulnerability considering the change in human capital distribution.


Papers presented at the Seminar provided empirical insights on demographic differential vulnerability, i.e. impacts, responses, coping strategies, and recovery from natural hazard events all vary by demographic characteristics (e.g. age, sex, education, geographic location) across different units of analysis – from individual, household, community to global level. Consequently, the Seminar established a platform for social scientists of different disciplines working on the issue of vulnerability and climate change to exchange expertise and knowledge on the topic. 



The common consensus arising from the discussion was that demographic characteristics should be incorporated into the geographical assessment of vulnerability (i.e. it matters both who you are and where you are), and vulnerability indices need to be validated vis-à-vis actual experience of natural disasters. Meanwhile, it is important to consider geophysical characteristics that determine exposure to hazards when investigating demographic differential vulnerability. 


See also:




Publication plan: A selection of papers presented at the Seminar will be published in the journal Vienna Yearbook of Population Research.


Funding: The organizers gratefully acknowledge financial support from the European Research Council (grant agreement: ERC-2008-AdG 230195-FutureSoc) and Chula Global Network.


© Photos above were taken by Andres F. Ignacio