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Assessing Climate Security Vulnerability in Africa: CCAPS’s new online dashboard

Africa_1971_2000_mean_temperatureThe Strauss Center’s Climate Change and African Political Stability (CCAPS) program recently released a new online dashboard that allows users to assess climate and security vulnerability in Africa. According to their website:

CCAPS climate dashboard, an online platform that displays data on physical, socio-economic, demographic, and political insecurities to assess how these factors contribute to “climate security” vulnerability in Africa.”

The description continues:

“The dashboard shows how the four sources of vulnerability used in the CCAPS model—physical exposure to climate-related hazards, population density, household and community resilience, and governance and political violence—contribute to local areas’ overall vulnerability to climate security concerns.”

This is an important step in modeling risks to human security. Firstly, the tool allows the user to incorporate climate-related variables into security risk assessments, something other fragility and security assessments could improve on. Secondly, it allows the user to adjust the “risk” levels of the various indicators, according to their own assessments, to get a better picture of the variety of possible outcomes on the ground. Overall, this dashboard provides a more dynamic way of assessing climate and security that better reflects the true complexity of factors that contribute to overall climate vulnerability in any given place at one time.

The tool will also be useful to practitioners tasked with forecasting security risks in the region, and doing something about it. Given complex and constantly-shifting realities on the ground, it is of course impossible to predict exactly what will happen in the future. But the dashboard moves policy-makers, strategists and aid organizations one step closer to understanding how to weigh the risks, and how to build more resilient responses (in fact, this is exactly the type of assessment promoted by E3G in their excellent report, Degrees of Risk.)

Indeed, the tool in its previous iteration has already been useful to us. In 2012, we wrote a piece on Libya.  Then and now the focus was understandably on establishing a functioning government and quelling the violence, but we wanted to know more about what role the over-extraction of fossilized groundwater, the inundation of saltwater into coastal aquifers, and the generally increasing aridity of the country, would have on the country’s security.  One of the key factors we used in our initial assessment of possible future water conditions in Libya was data from a report by Busby, White, and Smith showing that the number of drought days in some parts of Libya, an already extremely water-stressed country, could double by 2050.

The CCAPS climate dashboard offers other benefits for analysts.  For example, we can delve more deeply into the various ways that exposure to climate hazards, like increased water scarcity, may interact with other humanitarian risks, and update the “weight” of these variables in real time, according to any new events or information that may become available in the future.  This allows us to compare Libyan exposure to climate hazards to neighboring countries, like Sudan or Chad, for example, which share ownership of the fossilized groundwater that lies beneath all three countries.

We look forward to exploring the CCAPs climate dashboard further. It is exactly the type of tool that can help facilitate a better understanding of the risks associated with climate change, and lead to more effective responses.

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