Experts working on behalf of international development organisations need better tools to assist land managers in developing countries maintain their livelihoods, as climate change puts pressure on the ecosystem services that they depend upon. However, current understanding of livelihood vulnerability to climate change is based on a fractured and disparate set of theories and methods. This review therefore combines theoretical insights from sustainable livelihoods analysis with other analytical frameworks (including the ecosystem services framework, diffusion theory, social learning, adaptive management and transitions management) to assess the vulnerability of rural livelihoods to climate change. This integrated analytical framework helps diagnose vulnerability to climate change, whilst identifying and comparing adaptation options that could reduce vulnerability, following four broad steps: i) determine likely level of exposure to climate change, and how climate change might interact with existing stresses and other future drivers of change; ii) determine the sensitivity of stocks of capital assets and flows of ecosystem services to climate change; iii) identify factors influencing decisions to develop and/or adopt different adaptation strategies, based on innovation or the use/substitution of existing assets; and iv) identify and evaluate potential trade-offs between adaptation options. The paper concludes by identifying interdisciplinary research needs for assessing the vulnerability of livelihoods to climate change.