Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Environmental Sciences/Environmental, Earth & Ocean Sciences

First Advisor

Robert Bowen

Second Advisor

Paul Kirshen

Third Advisor

Jarrett Byrnes


Coastal areas have been experiencing the consequences of climate change in recent years, especially sea level rise and intensified and more frequent storms. These consequences are expected to vastly affect the wellbeing of communities in the future. Consequently, policy-makers have been implementing adaptation plans that aim at accommodating these effects. The first step in designing such adaptation plans is characterizing the risk within the area of interest. This task is known in the climate policy literature as vulnerability or resilience assessment. The purpose of the dissertation is to review current vulnerability/resilience assessment methodologies and develop new data-driven quantitative methodologies for that matter. vulnerability/resilience in this case measures the susceptibility of a subject to experience harm as a result of an extreme climate event. Nonetheless, most of the vulnerability/resilience assessments in the climate policy field do not consider the relationship between vulnerability/resilience and harm. As such, current practices are based mainly on un-validated theoretical frameworks that may fail to assess actual risk. The current study proposes two new approaches to assess the vulnerability of communities to climate change. The first approach uses the case study of socio-economic vulnerability during Hurricane Sandy at the State of New Jersey. It demonstrates the use of experienced harm (particular through insurance payouts and governmental assistance) within predictive statistical tools, to learn about socio-economic patterns and develop experience-based vulnerability assessments. The second approach, uses the case study of coastal Massachusetts’ transportation system to demonstrate a rational quantitatively vulnerability assessment for cases in which data concerning experienced harm are limited.


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