Climate change, multiple stressors and human vulnerability: a systematic review

Aleksi Räsänen*, Sirkku Juhola, Anja Nygren, Mira Käkönen, Maarit Kallio, Adrián Monge Monge, Markku Kanninen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleScientificpeer-review

45 Citations (Scopus)


We systematically reviewed current climate change literature in order to examine how multiple processes that affect human vulnerability have been studied. Of the 125 reviewed articles, 79 % were published after 2009. There are numerous concepts that point out to stressors other than climate change that were used in reviewed studies. These different concepts were used interchangeably, and they illustrate processes that act on different scales. Most widely used concepts included non-climatic (40 % of the articles), multiple stressors (38 %) and other factors (37 %). About 75 % of the studies either acknowledged or carefully analyzed the social and environmental context in which vulnerability is experienced. One-third of the studies recognized climate change-related stressors as the most important, one-third argued that stressors other than climate are more important, and the rest of the studies did not analyze the relative importance of the different processes. Interactions between different stressors were mentioned in 76 % and analyzed explicitly in 28 % of the articles. Our review shows that there are studies that analyze the social context of vulnerability within climate change-related literature and this literature is rapidly expanding. Reviewed studies point out that there are multiple interacting stressors, whose interlinkages need to be carefully analyzed and targeted by policies, which integrate adaptation to climate change and other stressors. In conclusion, we suggest that future studies should include analytical frameworks that reflect dissimilarities between different types of stressors, methodological triangulation to identify key stressors and analysis of interactions between multiple stressors across different scales.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2291-2302
Number of pages12
Issue number8
Early online date2 May 2016
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2016
MoE publication typeA2 Review article in a scientific journal


  • Adaptation
  • Driver
  • Exposure
  • Non-climatic
  • Pressure
  • Risk


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