HEA and Climate Change

Climate change challenges us all to look ahead, plan better, and be prepared. As the frequency and magnitude of climate-related hazards increases, our predictive and responsive capacities must improve in equal measure. Part of this preparation involves understanding just whose livelihoods will be affected by different hazards (and how), and learning what we can do now to build resiliencies.

FEG has a comparative advantage in this regard with its pioneering use of livelihood impact modeling for early warning and development purposes. Its development of a unique set of predictive tools (Livelihood Impact Analysis Spreadsheets, or LIASs) that combine current state-of-the art hazard monitoring applications (e.g. USGS’s Water Requirement Satisfaction Index) with comprehensive livelihoods data sets has transformed the early warning systems of many countries in Africa, tying them more closely to the realities and capacities of rural households.

While much attention has been placed so far on examining the science of climate change, and trying to understand its effects in terms of increased hazard incidence, (e.g. how are climate patterns shifting, with what direct and indirect geophysical effects?) less work has been done on the human impact side. Few studies look explicitly at the impacts that these changes are having and are likely to have on people’s livelihoods, and none are exploring the intersection between climate change and livelihoods using an established rigorous, quantifiable, disaggregated, and comparable livelihoods impact framework.

At the same time, significant evidence indicates that many development programs have not adequately factored in the likely effects of climate change on rural households, and have not been customized to reflect the livelihood context. As such, they risk falling short of their objectives at best, and resulting in unintended negative consequences at worst. Both shorter term and longer term hazards need to be factored in to development planning in order to protect livelihood systems and encourage adaptation where required.

With its extensive experience in rigorous livelihoods-based impact analysis and creative approach to integrating climate-related hazard datasets with quantitative livelihoods databases, FEG is uniquely placed to help ensure that the on-going effects of a changing climate are taken into account when forming climate-proofed development initiatives.

Case Study: Climate change in Ethiopia

Projected rainfall in Ethiopia in 2050 shows prospects of a worsening future in pastoralist areas. The negative (red) anomalies are squarely located in the pastoral zones of Afar and Somali Regions. In this sense pastoralists are the pioneers for us to watch in this new age of climate variability, and the task of coming up with creative options for reducing their immediate disaster risks and helping them adapt to the climate change effects they are experiencing right now can help forge the tools needed to address future concerns in other areas. FEG, in partnership with the Ethiopian government, has established livelihoods baselines in these pastoralist areas which can be used to help answer questions about the ongoing impact of climate shocks on livelihoods, effective approaches to building resilience, and the limits of adaptability.