Mapping Human Vulnerability to Climate Change

First global map suggests climate change will have greatest impact 
on the populations least responsible for causing the problem

Researchers already study how various species of plants and animals migrate in response to climate change. Now, Jason Samson, a PhD candidate in McGill University’s Department of Natural Resource Sciences, has taken the innovative step of using the same analytic tools to measure the impact of climate change on human populations. Samson and fellow researchers combined climate change data with censuses covering close to 97 per-cent of the world’s population in order to forecast potential changes in local populations for 2050.

 

Local vulnerability of human populations to climate change based on ecological and demographic models is depicted by regions in red which are expected to be most negatively impacted by climate change. White regions correspond to human density values of zero in the global population database. (Credit: McGill University) *Note: map replaced March 21, 2011 to show full global coverage.

Samson’s team found that if populations continue to increase at the expected rates, those who are likely to be the most vulnerable to climate change are the people living in low-latitude, hot regions of the world, places like central South America, the Arabian Peninsula and much of Africa. In these areas, a relatively small increase in temperature will have serious consequences on a region’s ability to sustain a growing population.”It makes sense that the low latitude tropical regions should be more vulnerable because the people there already experience extremely hot conditions which make agriculture challenging. An increase in temperature over the next few decades will only make their lives more difficult in a variety of ways,” says Samson.

This contrasts with Samson’s predictions about the impact of climate change on human populations in the high-latitude more temperate zones of the world, where the temperature change is expected to be greater. Because the spread of human populations along with their activities are already more constrained by the cooler conditions in these regions, the researchers expect that climate change will have less of an impact on people living in these areas.

The study also points to clear inequities in the causes and consequences of climate change: the countries that have contributed the least to climate change, based on their average per-capita carbon dioxide emissions, are nevertheless predicted to be the most vulnerable to its impacts. “Take Somalia for instance,” suggests Samson.”Because it’s so hot there, it’s already very difficult to grow things, and it will only become more difficult if the temperature rises. It’s also clear that Somalia is not a big contributor of greenhouse gas to the atmosphere. Now thanks to this map, we have concrete quantitative evidence of the disparity between the causes and the consequences of climate change at a national level.”

Samson anticipates this data could be useful for decision makers around the world in the ongoing international negotiations around climate change.”

The research was funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada (NSERC).

On online version of the article was recently published by the journal Global Ecology and Biogeography

For an abstract of the article: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1466-8238.2010.00632.x/abstract

[Source: McGill University press release]

72 thoughts on “Mapping Human Vulnerability to Climate Change

  1. Pingback: Scientists Link 13 New Gene Regions to Heart Disease Risk: MedlinePlus | Cancer causes Blog

  2. How about defining the terms used instead of just writing a vague, difficult-to-really-interpret “description”? What, exactly, does CDVI stand for? What does 20 mean? What does -18 mean?

    With no definitions, this is just a meaningless article with a pretty map.

  3. Colder climates climates need more energy to sustain life. In developed countries this energy is used. In other places people just chose not to live there.

    Crystal

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  5. I’m actually a bit relieved but disappointed more of the US isn’t in the red. I think urgency is about the only thing that will get the USA where it needs to be when it comes to Climate Change.

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  7. Thank you so much for this post. I always love reading researched and level-headed pieces on what climate change has in store for us and this research is really fascinating.

  8. Not surprising either that most Asian regions (South/South-East) are going to be highly affected by climate change. Living in Cambodia we can already start to see the effects climate change is having on poor communities here. Great job on spreading the awareness of how severely climate change can affect certain regions and congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

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  15. Of course no one can deny that there is climate change. Indeed it would be very strange if there were not. The question however is what really is the current trend of climate change. This rather poorly put together article which presents no data to back up it’s assertions would appear to be suggesting that the world climate is getting warmer.

    There is however considerable and mounting evidence to suggest that we are in fact going into a Dalton minimum or even a Maunder minimum. Some research into the findings on this site landscheidt.wordpress.com/ would pay dividends to personal understanding.

    The perpetuation of the men in white coats guessing syndrome, which is what this article amounts to, is doing no one any favours. It is about time that some real scientists, unfettered by considerations of funding and toeing the ‘party line’ were allowed to do their job. It is just as important to know if we are going into a mini ice age as it is to know if the planet is heating. Denying the possibility is scientifically sticking one head in the sand.

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  19. I agree with Eric. There is very little context for this map, and it’s difficult to interpret without some key points. It seems quite misleading that simply because the density is low that people will not be as greatly affected by climate change. I’m sure the 30 000 inhabitants of Nunavut would beg to differ that they will soon be forced to adapt quicker than they can when the animals they live off of are no longer around due to changes in climate. It’s also strange that British Columbia is represented as having zero population density, particularly along the southern coast. I would suspect that one would have to read the full journal article to truly understand what this study was attempting to put forth.

  20. great post! its sad how the impact is caused so much by humans! and now we are suffering cause of it..karma anyone?? lol

  21. So basically what you take away from this is, if its hot there now.. in the future it will only get hotter… well, even without any studies that was probably quite obvious… What are the areas completely in white on the map? What are their risk level?

  22. “climate change/global warming”, science can be made to say what you want it to say. Those that are objective with no bias to prove do it best. So this is how the world may be affected by something that may not even be happening. At least you got FP out of it, congrats on that.

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  24. Appreciate the approach with this map and the concern for those that are not as well off as most of us that are posting here. The truth is we will all be impacted by climate change and the indigeneous populations of the artic and antartic will be most affected by the rising waters and swings in the seasons. You are onto something with this and more should be done on this topic.

  25. Also forgot to mention that the ones that will be most impacted by climate change are those that are in areas where a rise of 7 feet of the water levels from rising sea waters will happen.

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  29. GIS = Geographic Information Science
    CDVI stands for or may stand for Color Doppler Vascularity Index
    Map to cover Australia http://www.vector1media.com/spatialsustain/australia-maps-climate-impacts-along-coast.html

    When studying a new subject to some it is best to not go past the blank in our mind that is caused by going past words. Online dictionaries such as http://www.onelook.com has an array of dictionaries. Once we get the key words the page of reading becomes pure magic and we can then take responsibility for our sector of control.

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  34. It seems so wholeheartedly unfair, that those that create it, will not suffer the consequences, and therefore, have nothing to move them to change other than basic human morality, and love for mankind. Hmmmm. I have to remain optimistic that morality and love for one another will prevail.

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  41. SEems interesting that the areas where life is know to be the oldest and have the longest recorded history will be the most inpacted. And this is howing temps, not water level geographic changes. That would give a different look to the US and what they stand to “LOSE”. Congrats on Freshly Pressed. Good converstion to have! AmberLena

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  44. Note: The original map supplied with the McGill University press release left off New Zealand and some other areas, and was replaced March 21, 2011 with the above map to show full global coverage.

  45. Yrogirg: The original map supplied with the McGill University press release left off New Zealand and some other areas, and was replaced March 21, 2011 with the above map to show full global coverage.

  46. Steve: The original map supplied with the McGill University press release left off New Zealand and some other areas, and was replaced March 21, 2011 with the above map to show full global coverage.

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  56. My Name is Abdel Nasser Rashash Ali from Egypt

    I would like to join project or Postdoc in climate hazrard . GIS and RS applications

    I have more than 8 year experienc in GIS and RS applications .
    – I have a PhD in Climate Oscillation and impact on Environmental using RS and GIS, 10-2010 , grade great honour ,Tanta University,Egypt.

    – GIS Diploma , Ain shams university , 2005

    – Master degree “The Climate and it’s effect on the human activity in Governorates Demiatta and Suhage in Egypt “A study in applied Climatology” 11-2-2006 (grade: excellent)

    – B.A.,Faculty of Arts: Tanta University 1999, Egypt, specialized in Applied Geography, Climatology, Remote sensing and GIS.

    JObs prof:
    -GIS analyst and Technical Manager for GIS Project , Dammam. KSA.

    – GIS and RS specialist in National Authority for Remote Sensing and Space Sciences, Cairo, Egypt.

    my cv in attach
    ————————————–

    Dr. Abdel-Nasser Rashash Ali
    rashash_gis@yahoo.com

    GIS & RS ExpertClimatology, GIS and Remote Sensing Work Adderss in KSA: Technical Manager for updating and maintenance of GIS Project
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