A Value-Based Approach to Vulnerability and Adaptation to Climate Change


New approach for building adaptation to climate change is developed while taking into account local and institutional values.

Please contact the supervisor directly at the following email address for any enquiry regarding this opportunity: abbas.elzein@sydney.edu.au


Professor Abbas El-Zein

Research Location

Civil Engineering

Program Type



Over the next few decades, sea level rise is set to become the most significant driver of socio-ecological change of the Australian coastline, alongside population growth and urban sprawl. Several questions need to be answered in relation to the best adaptation options as well as the best mix of governance approaches required to identify, negotiate and implement them – from small-scale, locally-owned multitude of decisions to centralised top-down approaches at State or federal levels, and any number of combinations in between. Over the last few years, the importance of “values” in assessing vulnerabilities and developing adaptation options has been emphasised in the literature. Some authors see values as possible impediments to adaptation action and hence need to be understood while others argue that a consideration of values is fundamental for adaptation to be managed through a democratic process. Since 2010, a few attempts have been made at incorporating values in discussions of adaptation. However, several questions remain. Most importantly, how can values be incorporated in assessment of vulnerability to sea level rise and the choice between different adaptation options? Can the process of incorporating values in planning for sea level rise be reconciled with the emerging need for transformational adaptation which may conflict with local interests? The project’s goal is to develop a methodology for appraising adaptation options while taking into account key sets of values associated with the socio-ecological system under consideration. The project deploys a mixture of qualitative and quantitative methods, including focus groups, surveys, technical appraisal of adaptation options and indicator-based assessment. The methodology will be tested and appraised through its application to a coastal area in New South Wales, Australia.

Additional Information

The successful candidate must be a permanent resident or citizen of Australia; have a background in geosciences, environmental or coastal engineering or equivalent; some research experience preferably as part of a Master’s level degree; and be interested and willing to engage in, both qualitative and quantitative research.The successful applicant will be trained in quantitative and qualitative research around issues of climate change, sea level rise and coastal management. Papers are expected to be published in one or more leading journals in the field such as Climatic Change, Global Environmental Change and Nature Climate Change. The work will also be presented at leading international conferences in the field. The School of Civil Engineering at the University of Sydney has a long tradition of cutting-edge research, is ranked 20th in the world by the QS World University Rankings by subject and has been ranked 12th in the world by QS in 2013. The successful candidate will join a thriving community of scholars at the School with a large and diverse group of PhD and Masters students.

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Climate Change, sea level rise, values, adaptation, Vulnerability

Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is: 2172

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