Meta-Analysis of Climate Change Vulnerability Mapping Studies

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Principal Investigator: 
Alex de Sherbinin, Columbia University
Brian Tomaszewski, Rochester Institute of Technology

Climate change will have multiple impacts across a range of systems and sectors, and will increase vulnerability of populations in many regions. Maps synthesizing climate, biophysical, and socioeconomic data have become part of the standard toolkit for communicating climate risks. So-called “hotspot” maps are often used to direct attention to areas where impacts are expected to be greatest and potentially require adaptation interventions. Under the advent of the Green Climate Fund and other bilateral climate adaptation funding mechanisms, potentially billions of dollars of adaptation funds are being directed with guidance from modeling results, visualized, and communicated through maps and spatial decision support tools. However, the methods and tools used to create vulnerability maps have not been systematically evaluated, nor have the map outputs in terms of communications efficacy.

This project will conduct a meta-analysis (assessment) of existing vulnerability mapping efforts focused on two aspects. Firstly, we will assess the methods used for the integration of spatial data representing climate exposure, biophysical systems, and social vulnerability in an effort to identify good practices. Secondly, we will assess the output maps according to standard criteria of cartographic design, clarity of communication, inclusion of information on uncertainty, and other criteria. The team will analyze at least 50 mapping efforts at different scales, created both by team members and by external parties. A secondary goal will be to establish a protocol for assessing map comprehension and policy impacts of maps through interviews with end users. The results will help to improve climate vulnerability maps and online map tools in ways that will facilitate science–policy communication.

Alex Apotsos, Williams College
Tegan Blaine, USAID
Anamaria Bukvic, Virginia Tech
Melanie Gall, University of South Carolina
Stéphane Hallegatte, World Bank
Saleem Khan Amsad Ibrahim Khan, Columbia University
Stefan Kienberger, University of Salzburg
Peter Lukey, Department of Environmental Affairs, Republic of South Africa
Alan MacEachren, Pennsylvania State University
Denis Macharia, Regional Center for Mapping of Resources for Development
Brent McCusker, West Virginia University
Benjamin Preston, Oak Ridge National Laboratory
William Shubert, Internews
Ričardas Vytautas Šliužas, University of Twente
Olga Wilhelmi, National Center for Atmospheric Research
Carolyn Fish, Penn State
Guillaume Rohat, University of Geneva and University of Twente (ITC)
Park Muhonda, University of West Virginia
Sainan Zhang, UN Population Fund
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