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Risks and urban adaptation

In this step, you will learn about the technical definition of disaster risk, and the three dimensions of risk that are included in this definition.
Risks And Urban Adaptation
© Nicolas Longchamps via flickr
Risks have been closely related to opportunities since the dawn of the urban era. The risk of flooding, for example, is often inherent to the opportunities offered by access to water bodies or fertile land. Accordingly, reducing disaster risk may also reduce opportunities. The key challenge of urban adaptation to climate change is, therefore, to preserve or create new opportunities whilst reducing disaster risk.

In this short video, the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development (UNRISD) gives an example.

This is an additional video, hosted on YouTube.

When considering how climate change adversely affects cities, it is helpful to distinguish between the three elements that together make up disaster risk.

First, disaster risk is determined by the probability and severity of a hazard: a potentially harmful phenomenon such as extreme weather or the spread of infectious disease. The second factor is exposure to a hazard, such as housing, and infrastructure in low lying coastal areas or river plains can be to flooding. Thirdly, vulnerability can make all the difference if such a phenomenon actually threatens cities exposed to it, as it may or may not allow inhabitants to cope, for example by seeking shelter or falling back on alternative supplies.

Venn diagram showing the meeting area of the three circles “Hazard”, “Exposure”, and “Vulnerability” as “Risk” Adaptation from World Bank

Please answer the following question. How might climate change affect each one of these three dimensions of disaster risk (hazard, exposure, and vulnerability) in urban settings, and what could we do in each case to reduce the risk of urban disasters? Please share your ideas with other learners in the discussion section.


UNRISD – United Nations Research Institute for Social Development, Why Flood Relocation Schemes Need More Social Justice (2021).

© University of Groningen
This article is from the free online

Sustainable Cities: Governing Urban Adaptation Under Climate Change

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