Why we need INFORM Climate Change Risk
With continued global warming induced by enhanced greenhouse gas concentrations, extreme weather and climate related risks are becoming increasingly amplified. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report on the impacts of global warming, in order to limit global temperature increase to 1.5°C it is essential to adopt and align a mix of mitigation and adaptation options with economic and sustainable development. Increasing coherence and integration of Climate Change Adaptation (CCA) and mitigation, Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and sustainable development is one the major knowledge challenges towards strengthening and implementing the global response to limiting warming to 1.5°C.
Developing common evidence-based tools for risk-informed decision-making as well as monitoring, reporting and evaluation purposes can help integrate DRR and CCA strategies and sustainable development plans. The INFORM Climate Change Risk will bridge DRR and CCA communities since it provides better insights for policy makers on the threats imposed by climate-related amplified hazards and the extent the increasing risk could be offset by improved vulnerability and adaptive capacity measures. INFORM International partners have identified the benefits of the tool in horizon scanning and global humanitarian risk monitoring. According to UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, capturing the projections of climate, exposure and vulnerability in INFORM is key to design appropriate preparedness measures. For United Nations Development Coordination Office, climate change enhanced risk indices are useful for exploring long-term causes of social inequalities. International Organization for Migration’s global preparedness effort benefits from INFORM's integration of climate and demographic projections as it provides an additional insight on individual mobile populations’ needs.
Objectives and scope of INFORM Climate Change Risk study
The upgraded INFORM Risk offers snapshots of current and future conditions resulting from climate change under different emission and population scenarios. This knowledge can benefit humanitarian crisis management planning as well as designing effective disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation strategies and plans.
Available risk indices are often based on historical observations or present-day hazard conditions. This way, indices make the implicit assumption that drivers of risk will not change and do not account for future socioeconomic expansion and climate-related impacts. INFORM Climate Change Risk presents a dynamic approach for identifying the current and future impact of climate change and associated vulnerability using projections of exposure to flood and drought hazards. In a joint effort Euro-Mediterranean Center on Climate Change and Joint Research Centre of European Commission upgraded the Hazard & Exposure dimensions of INFORM Risk using climate change and population projections based on the IPCC Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs) and corresponding Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSPs) for the mid-21st century. RCPs describe the evolution of future atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations and associated climate impacts, while the SSPs consider diﬀerent socio-economic developments and the challenges they present for climate mitigation and adaptation. In the current version, the SSP3 (regional rivalry) and SSP5 (fossil-fueled development) population projections are applied to the RCP 8.5 (business as usual) flood and drought projections to determine the exposure in mid-21st century (2036-2065). The exposure projections are then used to determine the reduction in vulnerability (enhanced coping capacity) required to return to the original level of risk associated with the historical climate and current population estimates.
Addressing vulnerability gap and other outcomes of the study
At global scale in the mid-21st century, 1.8 billion people (249% increase) and 1.5 billion people (197% increase) annually are projected to be exposed to river flood, coastal flood and drought under SSP3 and SSP5, respectively. Drought shows the highest exposure levels followed by river flood and then coastal flood, with some regional differences. The largest mid-century vulnerability and lack of coping capacity gap are observed in much of Europe, Western and Northern Asia and Africa (Figure 1). Countries located in such regions will need heavy investments in reducing vulnerability and increasing coping capacity to keep the risk at the current levels. Furthermore, changes in risk and vulnerability (lack of coping capacity) levels are mainly driven by increases in climate-related hazards rather than change in exposure. However, only three climate change hazards are considered in this initial study; combining additional hazards would likely increase the influence of climate change as a risk driver in the INFORM Risk.
Recent studies have employed SSP scenarios to project the drivers of vulnerability and coping capacity. Vulnerability scenarios under SSPs partially cover tangible (e.g. demographics, poverty, access to infrastructure) and intangible (e.g. governance, risk awareness) aspects of vulnerability. Socioeconomic projections with consistent 21st Century narratives are available for the SSPs for population, urbanization, gross domestic product, educational attainment and age structure dynamics. These basic variables have been fed into regression and sectoral models to produce a variety of socioeconomic variables that can be utilized to assess vulnerability.
Recently, the JRC INFORM team has started to explore ways to include also vulnerability and coping capacity projections into INFORM Climate Change Risk. Integrating such projections into the INFORM Risk Index would be an important contribution for its partners in terms of horizon scanning and global humanitarian risk monitoring. There are still substantial challenges to integrating SSP projections into risk assessments such as complexities related to the global shocks such as pandemics, technological breakthroughs, economic crises and other natural or human-caused disruptions.