Reducing carbon pollution is just the tip of the iceberg.

Originally published at

There are many benefits to climate action. Some are obvious. For example, improving stormwater drainage can prevent flooding. But other benefits may not be as apparent, such as improving water quality at the same time. Clean energy is another example.

Benefits graphic

COFFEE: “One of the really wonderful things about renewable energy is that it’s providing many more people with access to electricity around the globe. And we know that electricity access has huge benefits for everything from health care to education.”

That’s Joyce Coffee, a board member of the American Society of Adaptation Professionals. While switching from fossil fuels to clean energy will reduce global-warming carbon pollution, it will also improve air quality and cause fewer cases of asthma. Coffee says there are many such examples.

COFFEE: “By adaptation and resilience planning and implementation, we can lift more out of poverty, strengthen economies, even buttress food security, protecting natural resources. There’s a huge amount of opportunity to ensure a brighter future for generations to come.”

Coffee says it’s important to include these additional benefits when calculating the costs and benefits of climate action.

NOTE: Joyce Coffee is managing director of ND-Global Adaptation Index, ND-GAIN.

Originally published by Carin Zissis at

California and Arizona combined could fit into the amount of forest cut down in Brazil over the past four decades. Since 1970, glaciers in Peru have irretrievably lost a third of their surface area. Central American countries together contribute just 0.5 percent of global greenhouse gases, but Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua were among the world’s 10 countries most affected by extreme weather and climate variability from 1994 through 2013.

So it may come as little surprise that Latin America—more than any other region in the world per a Pew Research Center report—considers climate change a top global risk. With leaders converging in Paris for COP21 climate talks, we take a look at just how vulnerable Latin American countries are to climate change.

Warming-fueled droughts and storms imperil populations, industries and even the existence of some countries.

Originally published by Lydia O'Connor at

Climate change may be the one thing that threatens everyone on Earth. But the peril is much more dire for people in some countries if negotiators fail to reach a climate deal in Paris in the coming weeks. 

The Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index and climate risk consulting group Verisk Maplecroft both release annual rankings of nations most vulnerable to climate change based on geographical conditions and preparedness. Below are some of the countries most threatened by a warming planet.  

Probal Rashid via Getty Images
Climate change will inundate Bangladesh -- one of the world's most densely populated countries with some of the least arable land per capita -- with “extreme river floods, more intense tropical cyclones, rising sea levels and very high temperatures,” a 2013World Bank Report warned. Floods, tropical cyclones, storm surges and droughts are already becoming more frequent in coastal areas and in arid and semi-arid regions, the European Union's Global Climate Change Alliance reports. 

"For my country, Bangladesh, the goal of combatting climate change and its impacts is crucial, as we are on the frontline of this global threat," Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina wrote on The Huffington Post in September, noting that the nation has experienced 50 percent more rainfall than average this year, causing serious damage to crops. "The pledges on reducing emissions submitted for the Paris climate meeting must be measurable and verifiable."

In the photo above from 2011, a man affected by floods in Bangladesh's southwest Satkhira district stands on high land waiting for a rescue boat.

Klavs Bo via Getty Images
Verisk Maplecroft's Climate Change Vulnerability Index and the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index rank Chad as the No. 1 and No. 2 most climate change-threatened nation, respectively. 

As one of the poorest countries in Africa, Chad is not well-equipped to handle catastrophic climate disasters. Extreme weather events in the country may take the form of increasingly severe droughts or devastating floods, the Global Climate Change Alliance reports, and will take a huge toll on Chad's agriculture, livestock breeding, fisheries, health and housing.

The most striking symbol of climate change in the region is Lake Chad, which has shrunk to nearly one-twentieth of its original size since 1963, according to the U.N.

In the photo above, a boy floats in what was once one of the world's largest lakes. Other countries bordering Lake Chad -- Niger, Nigeria and Cameroon -- are alsoseverely affected by climate change and the lake's shrinking size.

“In all, the experience of countries sharing the Lake Chad further illustrates the mutual challenge we face today and which must be collectively addressed without further delay," Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari said Monday in Paris.

Pacific island nations
Jonas Gratzer via Getty Images
Low-lying Pacific island nations face the daunting possibility of being completely underwater if climate change isn't addressed in time. 

Kiribati President Anote Tong, whose 33-island nation of 105,000 people has an average elevation of less than 6.5 feet above sea level, said at the Paris summit Monday that Fiji has already offered to shelter its residents in the event that the islands become uninhabitable, Slate reported.

Pictured in the photo above from September, Kiribati villager Beia Tiim said the extreme high tide that used to come every three or four years now comes every three months, and most wells are underwater.

But Fiji is already faces its own climate disaster. At a gathering of Pacific island nations last month, The Guardian reported, Fiji foreign minister Ratu Inoke Kubuabola said the country was seeing a re-emergence of climate-influenced diseases, including typhoid, dengue fever, leptospirosis, and diarrheal illnesses.

ISSOUF SANOGO via Getty Images
Niger is considered one of the most climate-affected countries because of its high-stakes agriculture sector, which engages more than 80 percent of the population, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

"Niger is indeed one of the world’s most vulnerable countries because of its exposure to climate risks and its landlocked position," World Bank economist El Hadj Adama Touré explained in 2013. "Compounding this situation are the risks it faces from both internal and regional political extremism. One way or the other, all these factors affect the performance of the agricultural sector and therefore food and nutritional security."

Resources are stretched in Niger, which has the world's highest birth rate at 7.6 births per woman, and is predicted to double its population by 2031.  

In the photo above from 2005, a Nigerian boy works an agriculture field with his father.

AP Photo/Dieu Nalio Chery
Haiti is a "striking example of how this combination of physical exposure and socioeconomic conditions could lead to extreme climate change vulnerability," Columbia University's Earth Institute explained.

Haiti's climate vulnerability is amplified by over-exploitation of its forest, soil and water resources -- all of which will be further strained by a changing climate, the Global Climate Change Alliance noted.  

Haiti lies in a hurricane corridor and is predicted to face more frequent and more severe hurricanes as climate change intensifies, according to Columbia. 

In the photo above, a Port-au-Prince resident drains muddy water from a flooded house in 2012 after Hurricane Sandy brought extreme rains.

Democratic Republic of Congo
AFP via Getty Images
Climate change is likely to strike agriculture hard and increase the spread of disease in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

In a country where nearly 90 percent of the people rely on agriculture for their livelihood, climate change will likely wreak havoc on crops with more intense rainfall and floods, landslides and soil erosion in the central Congo basin, according to a BBC report. The country can expect the opposite in the south, where the Katanga region will likely see its rainy season shorten by at least two months by 2020.

Malaria and cardiovascular and water-borne diseases also may increase as a result of the warming climate. 

In the photo above, a Congolese man helps plant casava between acacia trees that will keep carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere as part of the first "carbon-well" to be registered by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

SHAH MARAI via Getty Images
The U.N. identified Afghanistan as one of the countries most at risk of climate change and implemented a $6 million climate change initiative in the mountainous, landlocked, dry country in 2012.

Climate change increases Afghanistan's likelihood of drought, floods and desertification. The warming climate will likely disrupt agricultural and security developments after three decades of war, warns the Global Climate Change Alliance.

In the photo above, an Afghan girl walks with her sheep down a dusty street in Kabul in 2007.

Central African Republic
Ben Curtis/AP
The Central African Republic, one of the world's poorest nations, is experiencing intense civil unrest following the ousting of its leader that will only get worse with climate change.

“By building adaptive capacity, you’re really taking care of some of the development issues, and by bringing people together in a genuinely participatory process, you can really contribute to reducing the conflict and tension within the country,” Denis Sonwa, a scientist and agro-ecologist at Center for International Forestry Research, said. 

Agriculture in the country is "still artisanal" without irrigation systems, Sonwa explained, which keeps it dependent on the rainy season. 

Meanwhile, recurring floods in Central African Republic capital Bangui cause on average$7 million in damages and losses a year, The Guardian noted. 

In the photo above, Central African Republic troops stand guard at a building used for joint meetings between them and U.S. Army special forces, in Obo, Central African Republic.

Bengt Geijerstam via Getty Images
Climate change will have severe consequences in Guinea-Bissau, which is largely made up of low, coastal areas and faces intense solar radiation, a government report warned. 

The nation's reliance on rain for its irrigation-free agriculture system is already becoming a problem.

"Rainfall is becoming increasingly irregular in space and time, a phenomenon accompanied by increase in temperature, thus causing low-yield agriculture, soil degradation by intensification of the phenomenon of evapo-transpiration," the report noted. 

In the photo above, farmers plow rice fields outside Contuboel, Guinea-Bissau.


Originally published by Erin Brodwin & Matt Johnston at

Climate change is real, and it's coming.

The leaders of 150 nations, along with thousands of representatives of nearly 200 countries, meet today in Paris for the 20th time to try and come up with a master plan to stave off the global catastrophe ahead.

Scientists have known for decades that the problem on our generation's hands is serious, but recent reports find that even those dire warnings likely underestimated the scope of the issue.

Of course, all of us will be affected in different ways. How will your country fare?

The folks at Eco Experts put together a great infographic in June based on data from the Notre Dame Global Adaptation (ND-Gain) Index, an annual ranking of which countries are best poised to adapt to a warming world.

While the maps provide a great zoomed-out perspective of what will happen globally as the earth warms, there are a few caveats to keep in mind when checking it out:

  • The map is based on rankings, not comprehensive evaluations of each country. In other words, the best-ranked countries are only as great as they seem compared against the countries that aren't performing so well.
  • The map looks only at the country-level. All of the state-specific, region-specific, or city-specific data is somewhat lost in this zoomed-out perspective. While the US gets a green light on this map, for example, specific parts of the country are far less equipped to handle climate change, including Miami and New York City.
  • Developed countries as a whole have far more infrastructure to adapt to a warming planet. The government can force people in coastal cities such as Miami Beach to move inland; we can also build new airports and transit hubs closer to the center of the country. The map reflects countries' abilities to do just that.

Here's the full graphic:Climate Change infographicThe Eco Experts

Solomon Islands is among ten countries around the world which have made marked progress in their ability to cope with climate change.

Originally published by Radio New Zealand International at

The University of Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index uses 46 indicators to measure climate change risks to 180 countries.

It also measures how ready countries are to accept investment that could help them cope with more extreme weather and rising seas.

Solomon Islands stands alongside Malaysia, Rwanda, the Philippines, Poland and several other countries which have improved significantly in their ability to cope.

The researchers attributed their success to economic gains and development improvements such as boosting access to reliable drinking water and sanitation, strengthening agriculture, and lowering slum populations and child malnutrition.

ND-GAIN's managing director, Joyce Coffee, says the index is intended to help leaders prioritise investments to help countries adapt better, and ensure the most vulnerable are not forgotten.

Syria, Libya and Yemen are among countries whose standing has deteriorated the most.

The index found contributing factors to their falling scores are increases in political instability, violence, corruption and poor rule of law.

The Vicious Cycle Emerging Between War and Severe Weather Will Be Hard To Stop

Originally published by Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan at

The world has changed a lot in the past 12 months, with political conflict focusing the world on immediate crises, not the distant future. But a group of scientists are are showing how these conflicts will affect our ability to adapt to climate change down the road–and our ability to survive as a human race.

The Global Adaptation Index is a Notre Dame-based project that ranks every country in the world by how prepared it is for the stresses of climate change: food insecurity, drought, health crises, war, flooding, extreme storms, poverty, and more. The index has been around for years–it is a comprehensive statistical look at how quickly a country can adapt to change (we covered it last year, looking at the countries most likely to bewiped out by these changes).

But this week, the scientists behind GAIN introduced their most recent rankings, showing how 2014 dramatically shifted the preparedness of many countries. The big takeaway? Countries that have seen conflict over the past year slipped dramatically. Syria and Libya top the list of countries that fell through the ranks–while Yemen, a country that’s still covering from a battering of unprecedented cyclones, also slipped dramatically:

The Vicious Cycle Emerging Between War and Severe Weather Will Be Hard To Stop

“Several countries with the biggest losses on ND-GAIN Country Index are also very fragile, suggesting a connection between climate and conflict,” said Ian Noble, and advisor on the index. That’s because the index doesn’t just rank how at-risk a country is for climate change: It ranks how well it could respond to changes, based on metrics about its economic and political stability, government corruption, and infrastructure.

The ranking gives us two fields: Vulnerability and readiness. For example,take Syria. Syria’s readiness plummeted because neither the government nor the economy is prepared to protect the country from climate change. But what’s really important here is the country’s vulnerability listing. According to the GAIN index, Syria’s biggest vulnerability is water access. The conflict in Syria actually has its roots in the worst drought in its history, which contributed to the conflict.

“[T]he extreme dryness, combined with other factors, including misguided agricultural and water-use policies of the Syrian government, caused crop failures that led to the migration of as many as 1.5 million people from rural to urban areas,” the New York Times reported this year. “This in turn added to social stresses that eventually resulted in the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad in March 2011.”

The Vicious Cycle Emerging Between War and Severe Weather Will Be Hard To Stop

But this wasn’t your run-of-the-mill drought: A study published in theProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in March showed a causal relationship between the warming climate and the extreme conditions, concluding that greenhouse gas emissions directly spurred warmer temperatures and less rainfall in the region.

As the GAIN index illustrates, conflicts spreading across larger regions further lessens countries’ abilities to respond to the climate crisis–a vicious cycle of war and climate change. Look no further than Paris, where in a matter of weeks, world leaders will convene for arguably the most important meeting on climate change ever held as the city recovers from the horrifying attacks of Friday, November 13th.

The link between our warming planet and the wars spreading across it has never been more clear. Hopefully, the talks with catalyze a plan to break it–but it’s going to be a long road.

Lead image: Dry land near the giant Dadaab refugee settlement on July 19, 2011 in Dadaab, Kenya. Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images.

Originally published by Megan Rowling at
A flooded street is pictured after heavy rains caused the closure of several main streets in Libya's capital Tripoli November 6, 2015. REUTERS/Hani Amara

BARCELONA, Nov 17 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Syria, Libya and Yemen are among the countries whose ability to withstand climate change shocks and stresses has deteriorated most in the past five years, suggesting conflict makes people more vulnerable to climate impacts, researchers said.

The University of Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index (ND-GAIN), released on Tuesday, uses 46 indicators to measure climate change risks to 180 countries and how ready they are to accept investment that could help them cope with more extreme weather and rising seas.

The main contributing factors to the falling scores of the three fragile states in the Middle East and North Africa, riven by armed conflict, are increases in political instability, violence, corruption and poor rule of law, according to the index.

"Even without climate change, you're going to see that countries that have done a poor job on their governance or economic systems are a source of refugees, (and) because of conflict, they haven't been able to serve their people, and things are deteriorating there in all different sectors," said Joyce Coffee, ND-GAIN's managing director.

But adding vulnerability to climate change - which affects food and water security, and less directly health and sanitation - appears to indicate "where the real flash points are", she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

In the same period, 10 countries made marked progress in their ability to cope with climate change, the annual index showed.

They are Malaysia, Albania, the Solomon Islands, Guinea, Mongolia, Rwanda, Poland, Russia, the Philippines, Georgia, Laos and Ivory Coast.

The researchers attributed their success to economic gains and development improvements such as boosting access to reliable drinking water and sanitation, strengthening agriculture, and lowering slum populations and child malnutrition.

The ND-GAIN findings imply that investments in climate change adaptation could pay dividends for a country's stability and development, and vice versa, the researchers added.

Issued ahead of a U.N. climate summit in Paris set to agree a new deal to curb climate change, the index is intended to help leaders prioritise investments to help countries adapt better, and ensure the most vulnerable are not forgotten, Coffee said.

"To save lives and improve livelihoods, we must not only prevent the avoidable, but also prepare for the unavoidable changes in climate," she added.


To adapt to those changes, developing countries say they need much more financial assistance from the international community - and will be pushing hard for that at the two-week Paris climate conference which begins on Nov. 30.

Climate adaptation includes measures such as constructing cyclone shelters, raising up homes and building embankments to protect against floods, putting in place early warning systems, and trying different crops and farming techniques.

According to a new report from development charity ActionAid, rich countries provided grants to fund adaptation in developing nations of $3 billion to $5 billion in 2013.

That is very far off the annual $50 billion they should be giving by 2020 if they stick to a pledge to mobilise $100 billion per year by then, and split it between adaptation and actions to reduce planet-warming emissions as developing nations have urged, ActionAid said.

By 2025, at least $150 billion per year will be needed to fund adaptation, the charity said. It described the figure as a conservative estimate based on U.N. figures that likely underestimate the real costs of climate impacts.

The $100 billion goal for 2020 includes not just government grants but also loans and private-sector funding, which ActionAid said should not be counted because they risk exacerbating poor countries' debt, and would fail to reach the communities that most need support.

While the adaptation funding needs may sound large, most donor countries would have to spend less than 0.1 percent of GDP in 2020 and around 0.2 percent by 2025 to meet them - amounts that pale into insignificance alongside defence spending or bank bailouts, the group said.

The report also calculates the amounts rich countries should give based on their historical greenhouse gas emissions and estimates of future adaptation needs in the developing world - what it calls their "fair share".

The United States, for example, should increase its contributions by more than 154 times, from the $0.44 billion it gave in 2013 to $67.5 billion in 2025, ActionAid said.

And climate-summit host France would need to boost climate change grants to developing nations by more than 75 times, from $0.07 billion in 2013 to $5.5 billion in 2025, it added.

"People in poor countries can't just be left alone to face a crisis they did not cause," Brandon Wu, ActionAid's climate finance expert, said in a statement.

"Adequate climate finance will be a key barometer of success for the world's leaders at the climate summit in Paris next month."

Credit: Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit


Originally published at and redistributed by &
Countries on the rebound making significant climate adaptation progress

In the lead-up to 21st meeting of the Conference of Parties (COP 21), 10 countries have come from behind to make marked progress in their ability to withstand the shocks and stresses of climate change, while five are distinctly less resilient, according to data released Tuesday (Nov. 17) by the University of Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index (ND-GAIN).

Over the last five years, the 10 countries that have made the biggest jump on the ND-GAIN Country Index to become better climate adapters are Cote d'Ivoire, Laos, Georgia, The Philippines, Russia, Poland, Rwanda, Mongolia, Guinea and the Solomon Islands.

These countries share improvement in common factors that have contributed to the upward movement: primarily their improving economies and improving adaptive capacities, such as increased access to reliable drinking water, improved sanitation, increased agricultural capacity and decreased slum populations and child malnutrition.

On the flip side, a set of countries is heading in the wrong direction. The countries that have deteriorated the most in their ND-GAIN score during the past five years are Libya, Syria, Cuba, Saint Kitts and Yemen.

The contributing factors to these countries' falling scores are primarily increases in corruption, political instability, violence and poor rule of law.

"Interestingly, several countries with the biggest losses on ND-GAIN Country Index are also very fragile, suggesting a connection between climate and conflict," notes ND-GAIN scientific adviser Ian Noble. Comparing ND-GAIN to the Fund for Peace's Fragile States Index, Libya, Syria and Yemen are some of the poorest performers over the past five years on both of these indices. On the other hand, Ukraine is also doing poorly on FSI, but not on ND-GAIN, possibly because the conflict there arose from pressures outside its borders.

The examination of biggest gainers and biggest losers on the ND-GAIN Country Index suggests that investments to increase climate adaptation may pay dividends for a country's stability and development, and vice versa.

The ND-GAIN analysis both reinforces messages in the Pope's recent encyclical on the environment, Laudato Si', and confirms the interrelationship of climate adaptation with many of the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals, highlighting the collateral benefits climate action can have on key elements of well-being.

"To save lives and improve livelihoods, we must not only prevent the avoidable, but also prepare for the unavoidable changes in climate," Joyce Coffee, managing director of Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index, said. "In the lead-up to the Paris Conference of the Parties next month, the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index identifies the world's hotspots so that leaders can prioritize investments that help countries to be more adaptive to global changes."

"The aim behind ND-GAIN's data delivery is to provide information for the common good," said Nitesh Chawla, index director of the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index. "Free and open source, the ND-GAIN Country Index also has extensive online tools that allow index users to compare asset risks and opportunities."

The ND-GAIN Country Index aims to unlock global adaptation solutions that save lives and improve livelihoods while strengthening market positions in the private sector and policy decisions in the public sector. Measuring not only vulnerability but also the readiness to take on investment, it informs strategic, operational and reputational decisions regarding supply chains, capital projects and community engagements. The index includes 20 years of data across 46 indicators for 180 . ND-GAIN is housed in the Environmental Change Initiative of the University of Notre Dame.

Migrants from the Middle East bound for Europe earlier this month. Fotis Piegas G/Reuters

Posted on The Conversation: We are entering a new era of migration – and not just for people

The world is watching as refugees flood into a Europe unprepared for the new arrivals. Conflict and social unrest due in part to climate stress – including induced food shortages and social conflict – have prompted migrants to search for new homes and new opportunities.

To ecologists, however, this comes as no surprise.

When we look at the history of life on Earth, we see a repeated pattern in the response of living things to environmental change. Plants and animals alike have a remarkable capacity to migrate in response to changing conditions. Over many generations and thousands of years, this leads to wholesale changes in the geographic distribution of species and composition of the world’s ecosystems. Species may adapt to climate change, and sometimes go extinct, but movement is a nearly ubiquitous response.

This observation of past migrations gives us a window into the future, suggesting how life – including human life – may unfold under modern climate change.

Specifically, given the scale of climatic and environmental changes confronting Earth today, we may be confronting an unprecedented era of human migration.

Faster pace of change

As ecologists, we know one thing for sure: when the climate changes, organisms move.

During the last ice age, a time when the world was around 10 degrees Fahrenheit colder, forests dominated Death Valley, California, a place that is now a hot desert. What happened to the trees? They moved. Over many generations, their offspring dispersed to new locations and survived where they found conditions more favorable.

Many millions of years ago, at a time when Earth was much warmer, there were relatives of the alligator living at the poles. Why were they there? Because the climate was suitable for alligators and their offspring.

By moving, a species effectively reduces its exposure to changing conditions: if each generation is able to find suitable climates, then over time they all end up experiencing similar conditions.

The fossil record shows wave after wave of species migration. This process of geographic reconfiguration is disorganized and messy, with strange combinations of organisms living together as they pass through geologic time. (Interestingly, one biological consequence of migration may be the long periods of relatively little evolutionary change that we see in the fossil record: migration reduces evolutionary pressure for species to adapt to changing conditions.)

As dramatic as past episodes of climate change have been, they have generally played out over very long time periods, so the average rates of migration were fairly slow.

The situation today is quite different, as the rate of change in the next century is projected to be at least 10 times the rate observed at the end of the last ice age.

Ecologists estimate that some species confronting climate change today will need to move many kilometers per year, on average, to keep pace with warming projected under the current “business-as-usual” emissions trajectory, which would result in 4-8 degrees Celsius average temperature increase this century. For some species, however, migrations can be very different: they may move shorter distances but move, for example, from the base to the top of mountains or from coastal to inland locations.

Human dependence on other species

Will people move these long distances, over a short period of time, too?

The social and technological innovations of human society have in many ways decoupled our lives from direct dependence on local climate, at least in developed societies. We regulate the environment we inhabit in our houses and cars, and move food and water vast distances from where it is available or can be produced in abundance to where it is needed.

Yet the other species we depend on – especially for food and fiber – have their own climate requirements.

Changing climates are rapidly prompting farmers and foresters to plant different species or cultivars, to move the production of particular crops toward cooler or moister locations, and to place increased pressures on limited supplies of irrigation water.

Where agriculture becomes difficult, or even impossible, or when other climatic limits are passed, we people may take to the road as well.


A wildlife overpass in British Columbia. Natural resource managers are preparing for species migration in different ways, such as creating refuges and wildlife corridors. 

In the fossil record, migration is the dominant signal of response to a climate, but today technology and socioeconomic innovation give us many other ways to adapt in place. And, at the same time, global markets for goods free us, to an extent, from dependence on local conditions.

On the other hand, the technologies and global markets that allow us to adapt to changing conditions also facilitate human movement, and link our economies, making us all vulnerable to climate impacts felt around the world.

There is no doubt that climate change is one factor exacerbating social and political turmoil across the globe, and these effects may intensify quickly in coming years and decades. Human migrations – just like the responses of nonhuman creatures – will be hard to predict, chaotic and haphazard. Yet, if we heed the lessons from ecology and the fossil record, we would do well to prepare for the growing numbers and needs of climate refugees, whether fleeing sea level rise, heat waves, drought and famine, and the social conflicts all of these can cause.

Dealing with geographic change

Ecologists charged with managing nonhuman, natural resources are planning for species migrations in many ways, including:

  • identifying regions with the fastest climatic shifts where we expect the greatest migration

  • planning parks and preserves to serve as recipients for migrating species, and preserving the corridors that allow plants and animals to move through heavily fragmented urban and agricultural landscapes

  • looking to regions with more stable climates to serve as refugia where communities and ecosystems may be naturally resilient. In some cases, they are looking to facilitate migration because we know that moving allows species to avoid the trap of being stuck in a degrading climate.


The analogy is imperfect, but we must plan for migration of human populations as well. That means seeking to identify and enhance resilient communities that can support vibrant communities in the face of rapid environmental and social change. And we must accommodate people who seek places that are better today and more suitable in the future.

If the biological past foretells the future, political leaders must prepare for an era of profound geographic change, a modern era of migration.

Op-Ed by U.S. Rep. Patrick E. Murphy (FL-18) - View original piece

On Thursday, Pope Francis addressed a joint session of Congress, and on the minds of many were his inspirational words and environmental call to action from his most recent encyclical, Laudato Si. I was inspired by his message of working toward justice for the less fortunate by sharing in the care of the earth, which we all call home.

As a native Floridian, born and raised in the Florida Keys and living along South Florida’s beaches my entire life, the threats to our coastline and our community because of climate change are not only deeply troubling, but personal.

In fact, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Coastal Flood Exposure Mappershows that one foot of sea level rise threatens the majority of our local coastline, and that many of these areas most vulnerable to climate change are also home to our most vulnerable community members, such as the elderly and the poor.

Even more troubling is that Florida’s predicament is not an isolated situation. Across the world, this same story is unfolding. The University of Notre Dame’s Global Adaptation Index is a metric that summarize the vulnerability to climate change and the adaptation potential of every country. The index clearly shows that the poorest countries of the world are some of the hardest-hit but the least able to adapt to rising sea levels.

The worst effects of climate change are occurring in communities that don’t have the resources to adequately adapt, while those responsible for the greenhouse gas pollution that drives climate change continue to damage the environment, largely without consequence. In Laudato Si, Pope Francis emphasizes this point: “The poorest areas and countries are less capable of adopting new models for reducing environmental impact because they lack the wherewithal to develop the necessary processes.”

I agree that we must take action to protect our environment to improve the lives of everyone in our global community, particularly the most vulnerable among us. As a public servant, I truly believe that we have a responsibility to act on climate change.

Furthermore, I agree that this is something we can accomplish. That is why, for example, I support the President’s Climate Change Action Plan, and am actively supportive of restoring our environment along with helping our communities protect against ongoing sea-level rise.

As we reflect on Pope Francis’ visit and take his message of action to heart, I hope that we will work toward solutions for climate change that reduce the impacts on vulnerable communities, alleviate suffering, and enable all people to participate in this process of making our common home a better place to live.

Congressman Patrick E. Murphy represents the Palm Beaches and Treasure Coast in Congress. He serves on the House Financial Services Committee and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Additionally, he is the co-founder and co-chairman of the bipartisan United Solutions Caucus and a member of the Congressional Safe Climate Caucus.