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Thursday, 17 January 2013 09:20

Welcome to POPClimate! Featured

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Climate change is increasingly an "all hands on deck" kind of problem. We need to marshal everything we can to combat it, whether in reducing emissions or preparing for changes to come, and indeed those that are already here. This website represents our hopes to bring a vast array of new data to the understanding of climate vulnerability and plans to address it -- population and census data.

If you are reading this, you are one of the first members of what we hope will become a community of data users, adaptation practitioners, and policy makers in government, in NGOs, in universities and in communities, trying to tackle the challenge of planning for adaptation with better, more intuitive, more people-targeted, more usable data. Maps and spatial analysis are at the center of this effort, allowing us to bring together different kinds of data and make sense of them in different ways.

We don't know quite yet how this site, and the community we hope will come to it, will unfold over time. Our hope is that this becomes a place for innovation, communication and shared problem-solving. Feedback is encouraged. And so is participation, which is the only way this can become a success.

Thank you for coming!


We are happy to announce that with the collaboration with Wolfram Solutions (, the Demographic Explorer for Climate Adaptation (DECA) – An Automated Spatial Analysis Tool is now available on POPClimate:

We have featured the two DECAs, DECA Semarang, Indonesia and DECA Malawi, on POPClimate. You can access and conduct analysis through DECA online, download DECA to a local disk, or share the tool elsewhere. We encourage you to share any comments or interesting findings from your interaction with the DECA on DECA Gallery (


Geospatial analysis using Geographic Informations Systems (GIS), combined with the techniques of remote sensing, have been widely applied to monitor the Earth’s surface features and climate change related environment characteristics, as well as explore their social-economic implications by linking these characteristics with population, social and economic data. Despite the powerful map-based spatial analysis of GIS available today, it is not easy for non-geographers to manipulate and understand. Most existing online tools provide limited population data, data integration ability, and are designed with a focus on visualization instead of spatial analysis. This creates an obstacle to applying evidence-based analysis to policy-making processes. Through our previous work assisting countries with planning for and adapting to climate change, we felt an urgent need to make analysis easier to design, implement, and understand, and thus encourage participation by social scientists, disaster risk reduction practitioners, multi-level government, planner, climate-related organizations and the general public.

Based on the above observations, we developed the Demographic Explorer for Climate Adaptation (DECA) – an automatic spatial analysis tool, via a technical partnership with Wolfram Solutions, and based on the concepts, methods and case studies in “The Demography of Adaptation to Climate Change”( The objective of the development of the tool is to support the analysis of incorporating population dynamics into climate change adaptation and national development strategies.

The online DECA tool is the first, innovative tool for automated integration and analysis of multiple kinds of spatial data. It aims to fill in knowledge gaps in social, environmental, and science-policy by involving stakeholders into the spatial analysis and decision-making process.

Firstly, the DECA tool will provide a much simpler and straightforward approach to incorporating various data, particularly census data and other social survey data, into planning for climate change adaptation though spatial analytics. Unlike existing spatial analysis software, DECA assembles all the data into the tool, lists breakdown variables into detailed categories (e.g. hazard levels, land use type, housing materials, age groups, education levels, infrastructure types), so that the user can combine any categories based on specific groups of people or targeted geographic areas. All these analysis can be conducted automatically, so can be learned by the user with the minimal previous analysis experience. Through the tool, the data analysis capacity of countries, especially the least-developed countries, could potentially be enhanced.

Secondly, DECA will be a helpful tool to support climate-change adaptation programmes that are carried out by local and national governments with the support of other UN agencies and NGOs. For example, the National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) supported by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) could benefit from this online tool. United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)’s Third National Communication to the UNFCCC, which aims to strengthen the climate-change mitigation, adaptation, and environmental sustainability measures in targeted vulnerable provinces, sectors and communities, might also find this online tool is valuable for their project. It is also our hope that DECA tool could assist the Task Force on Climate Change Related Statistics in analysis or research related to climate change.

Thirdly, DECA will increase the public awareness of climate change. DECA is an online tool and free to access by the public (assuming that data providers agree). It will enhance communication among scientist, decision-makers, stakeholders and general public in the issues of population and climate change, and enhance the linkage of analysis with policy formulation. The general public will benefit from the tool, as they can see the level of climate-change risk, the socioeconomic status of the neighborhood where they are located, and thus strengthen their individual awareness of the need for adaptation.

Features of the DECA tool

We have developed the tool by generating two DECAs: Malawi country and Semarang district, Indonesia. Both countries have recently completed national censuses in formats that allow for mapping at local level – a characteristic of many of the censuses conducted in 2010. The study selected variables and indices to identify local vulnerability and adaptive capacity at ‘small area’ level, including population size, population density, age, gender, education, occupation, female-headed households, migration and mobility, household conditions, and access to resources and services.

Data applied in the Malawi DECA tool include Malawi census data from 2008, flood risk data generated by hydrological analysis combing open-source elevation, precipitation, and water system data. The DECA tool built for Semarang, Indonesia profile brings together the 2010 census data received from the National Statistical Office, administrative spatial data, infrastructure and land-use data from Geospatial Information Agency, and climate hazard maps from the National Agency for Disaster Management. The main features incorporated in the DECA tool reflected in the two country profiles include:

(1) Integration of multiple types of geo-referenced data. The tool provides the user the ability to specify particular combinations of data layers via a selection function or toggle, as well as different vulnerability indicators generated for instance from census data, such that the combinations of layers and indicators are generated and visualized. For example, Figure 1 below is the Malawi DECA interface. Average precipitation from December to April (rain season) in Malawi is selected as Property 1, and the adjusted Secure Tenure Index (STI), which is a gives a quantitative estimate of slums, is selected as Property 2. The STI is used to track progress towards Millennium Development Goal 7.10. In the “Selection of village by property”, we select the villages (here in Malawi, is Traditional Authority areas) with low STI and high precipitation. The selection criteria are highlighted by bold black circles at the lower-left corner of the legend in the left panel. The DECA tool then finds the targeted villages that fit the criteria, and illustrates the characteristics and locations of these villages through the associated maps, tables and figures. The analysis results have two sections: for “all villages” and for the “selected villages”.


Figure 1. Analysis of villages with low Secure Tenure Index in high precipitation area using the Malawi DECA as an example.

Figure 2 provides another example of data integrations using the Indonesia DECA. It shows the villages that exposed in the high flood zones and with high dependency ratio in the Semarang district. The spatial distribution of education buildings is also integrated in the data analysis. It demonstrates how indicators of population data can be combined with infrastructure data, and climate-related hazard data through the DECA tool.


Figure 2. Analysis of villages with high dependency ratio in the high flood risk areas using the Indonesia DECA as an example.

(2) Customized inputs for automated analysis. The DECA tool allows the user to conduct automated analysis based on specific needs. The user can combine the variables based on existing variables in the database (e.g. combine age groups, school attendance at different education levels, housing material types, or land use types), select inputs by gender, by total “count” or “proportion”, select particular types of infrastructure by checking each individual category, select the cross-legend of the low-high levels of two properties (e.g. high flood risk and high population density), select particular areas by typing village names, or by directly clicking the map. Figure 3, the Indonesia DECA data input panel, illustrates how a user can customize data input, determine the variables, and conduct a specific analysis.


Figure 3. Customized input selections and combination of variables by different approaches.

(3) Analysis results adjusted in real time to reflect analysis choices made by the user. Based on customized inputs, the tool automatically generates analytical maps and accompanying tables and figures on analysis results to facilitate the examination of population and related data on climate vulnerability. For example, the user can change the selection of the hazard risk level and the age group, and the analysis results at the right panel of the interface will be adjusted correspondently in order to evaluate the vulnerability and adaptable capacity of the individuals and households in the selected zones (Figure 4). In the next step of the DECA development, the user will be able to “lock” the selected villages while switching to other properties to investigate more characteristics of the selected villages, e.g. other population characteristics, housing conditions, service accessibility through the tables and figures. Similarly, the further improvement of the tool will also allow selection within the results, i.e. clicking the villages with certain features directly in the histograms will correspondently highlights these villages in the map, and the analysis will be changed simultaneously.


Figure 4. Real-time analysis results visualization.

Results of the analysis have the potential to contribute to Malawi and Indonesia’s National Adaptation Programmes of Action. Malawi in particular lacks strong data on either historical climate hazards or existing hazard exposure areas, so the tool will provide a valuable approach in analyzing environmental hazard and the population aspects of climate vulnerability.

Future work

These two DECAs in Malawi and Indonesia present a prototype of the online automated analysis tool. It demonstrates significant potential for our future work, which will involve improvement and replication to include more countries. Specifically, major work starting from the year 2014 will concentrate on:

(1) Expand the spatial analysis. The second stage in the development of DECA aims to enhance the geographic analysis related to climate change, such as calculating the distance from villages to roads (adaptation capacity), from villages to rivers (flooding vulnerability), from villages to hospitals (adaption capacity), buffer zones of hospitals and schools (service area), as well as the distance among villages (isolation). Statistical analysis and modeling tools will explore the interactions between population dynamics and climate change.

(2) Include temporal analysis. The current stage of the tool uses one-year data; the future work might include data from different years, providing both spatial and temporal analysis, and long-term monitoring of changes in the environment and human vulnerability.

(3) Scale up to more countries. One advantage of the DECA tool is that it is easily replicable. We started with the countries of Indonesia and Malawi, and will replicate the project by building data from other countries into the DECA. In 2014, we will be working on the Maldives and potentially Zambia DECA, and aim to provide services to more countries and regions by building country-specific DECA tools and carrying out training for governments who are developing and implementing adaptation initiatives.

Gender Based Violence and Climate Change: Linkages and Evidence

------ By Daniel Schensul

The impacts of climate change have already begun, and even with the prospect of a major global agreement on emissions reductions in 2015, will continue to increase, with enormous and far reaching implications for well-being, dignity and development. One of the challenges of preparing for climate change impacts, however, is that the most significant events will occur in the future. The best approach to meeting this challenge has been to use past natural disasters as proxies and as the basis of learning. By this approach, it is clear that gender-based violence is in critical need of significant focus in planning for and responding to climate change.

Available evidence indicates that the disorganization that accompanies natural disasters (e.g., separation of families and disruption in the rule of law) puts women and girls at heightened risk of multiple forms of violence.[1]  Observed frequency is high (even given significant underreporting, associated both with stigma and the absence of effective monitoring systems and health services in emergency situations), yet disaster risk reduction and disaster response have generally not included GBV-related activities.[2]

According to WHO,[3] increases in intimate partner violence levels have been reported in the Philippines after the Mt. Pinatubo eruption, in Nicaragua after Hurricane Mitch, in the USA after the Loma Prieta earthquake and the eruption of Mt. Saint Helens, and in several refugee camps worldwide. Women who were living in a violent relationship before the disaster may experience violence of increasing severity post-disaster, as they may be separated from family, friends and other support systems that previously offered them some measure of protection. After a disaster these women may be forced to rely on a perpetrator for survival or access to services. Displaced women and children are often at risk of sexual violence as they try to meet their basic needs. Rape of women and children collecting water and firewood has been reported in refugee camps in Guinea and the United Republic of Tanzania; as climate change exacerbates water shortages and spurs increasing competition over other natural resources including firewood, risk of violence will only increase.

In areas where human trafficking is widely prevalent, disasters may result in conditions that provide opportunities for traffickers (e.g. large numbers of unaccompanied children). Sexual exploitation may increase in situations where women's options for employment are diminished. Additionally, reports from the eastern Congo and Guinea show that refugee and displaced women and children may be coerced into sex in exchange for food or shelter for themselves or their families. In cultures with traditions of early marriage and dowry, adolescent girls' may face an increased risk of early and forced marriage because of poverty, which will be exacerbated particularly in high exposure areas like flood plains and in agriculture-dependent contexts where climate change is expected to cause decreasing yields.

A recent UNFPA report[4] estimates that in the past 10 years more than 800 disasters in the Latin American and Caribbean Region affected about 64 million people. According to statistics on reproductive health kits for interagency use in crisis situations, about 65,000 women may have been violated in this context (no doubt a very significant undercount).

In Chile, data from clinics and centres for the assistance of domestic violence survivors confirmed that reported incidents of VAW had increased. In Guatemala, an evaluation by Gestión y Tecnología en Salud y Desarrollo (GETSA) in June 2010 revealed that psychological violence had increased from 7 per cent prior to the storm to 22.5 and 19 per cent during and after the storm, respectively. The evaluation also observed an increase in economic violence from 18.3 to 20.4 to 26.1 per cent, prior, during and after the storm, respectively. Other contributing factors were: scarce security in temporary shelters, particularly at night; improvised shelters, the majority of which housed both men and women together, that were inadequate to provide for the high number of displaced persons and generally lacked even basic security measures (e.g., lighting); and insufficient military personnel to provide security. Besides sexual violence, cases of femicide were also reported.

Similarly, investigations on this issue in the Dominican Republic in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Noel (2007) revealed that sexual violence, both within the home and within society in general, had increased. The following primary contributing factors were reported by the authors:  destruction of traditional prevention and response services such as police stations, judicial courts and health centres; lack of priority given to medical and social services, the aim of which was to prevent and respond to VAW in the context of reconstruction efforts; loss of social and family protection frameworks that may have increased the vulnerability of women to SEA and/or survival sex. In the 2007 post-earthquake Peru, the majority of the GBV survivors who reported their cases were between 9 and 18 years old. According to testimonies, the majority of perpetrators were strangers who took advantage of girls’ being alone, either because they left their refuges or because their parents were away working.

Yet data and research also show some important temporal considerations for GBV response related to disasters. A preliminary study by the World Bank right after Hurricane Mitch hit Nicaragua and Honduras describes a pattern in which familial and sexual violence seems to have decreased in the immediate aftermath of the disaster and to have steadily increased in the reconstruction phase. This may mean GBV programmes are particularly vital in the period after immediate relief efforts, when world’s attention, and that of the humanitarian response community, is often already turning elsewhere.

Proxy analysis of natural disasters has its limitations for climate change impacts, but the direction of error is likely in underestimating GBV. Climate change impacts are pervasive, including not just short term, acute impacts like storms, but cyclical events, huge long term changes that will impact livelihoods on a pervasive basis, and impacts across a nearly all sectors of society. The breadth of climate impacts, and the strong links between GBV and disasters, yet further emphasize the urgency of climate change mitigation and adaptation.

[1] Gender-based Violence Area of Responsibility Working Group. “Handbook for Coordinating Gender-based Violence Interventions in Humanitarian Settings.”

[2] UNFPA Fact Sheet on Gender Based Violence in Disaster Settings, LACRO.

[3] WHO Factsheet on Violence and Disasters.

[4] UNFPA. “Gender-Based Violence and Natural Disasters in Latin America and the Caribbean.”

Climate Change in a Growing, Urbanizing World: Understanding the Demography of Adaptation (Book Launch)

// Thursday, November 7, 2013
Posted on New Security Beat - blog of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars' Environmental Change and Security Program (ECSP).

The effects of climate change are often conveyed through the lens of changing physical landscapes. Shifting weather patterns, the intensification of drought, flooding, and coastal erosion are all primary areas of climate research. But do researchers know enough about changes in the size, distribution, and composition of human populations as they relate to climate vulnerability?

No, according to The Demography of Adaptation to Climate Change, a new book co-produced by the United Nations Population Fund, International Institute for Environment and Development, and El Colegio de Mexico .

“This book addresses a gap in our adaptation efforts to date by pointing to the vital role that an understanding of population dynamics and the use of demographic data can have in developing proactive and effective adaptation policies and practices,” said Kathleen Mogelgaard, an ECSP consulting expert on population and climate, at the Wilson Center on October 2.

Mogelgaard and three of the book’s contributors discussed avoiding static perceptions of human vulnerability to climate change and how to use population and survey data to better inform adaptation efforts.

“Who, Not What”

“The discussion around adaptation…continues to be oriented to ‘what’ rather than ‘who,’ to the physical environment and vulnerability and impacts therein, without always the recognition that the end we are trying to achieve is resilience, security, and well-being for people,” said Daniel Schensul, a technical specialist at the United Nations Population Fund. “The population perspective can really bring that.”

“How the world adds 2.5 billion new urban residents in the coming decades is going to shape enormously the livelihoods, the wellbeing, and the environmental security of those urban residents, and our societies, and our economies overall,” he said.

As some of the fastest growing cities are located on coastlines, this incredible rate of urbanization moves people towards areas of vulnerability, rather than away. And rather than some future movement of people fleeing environmental disasters, he noted these urbanization trends are happening already. “It’s not about your environmental threats 10, 20, 30 years down the line, it’s about your job and your wellbeing and your social networks and your family,” Schensul said.

But in order to understand patterns of urbanization and human migration, Schensul said researchers need access to better aggregated socioeconomic and housing data. Climate vulnerability depends on an individual or household’s ability to prepare and respond to crises, said Schensul. For example, the ramifications of a flood will be profoundly different for a family with the means to leave an at-risk area, compared to a family without that option. “The way a climate hazard impacts a society is highly differential…what you bring to the table really shapes the way you can respond to environmental disasters that may occur,” he said.

Through the analysis of both large-scale trends (such as human migration) and household-level data (such as economic capacity), a more complete understanding of climate resilience and vulnerability can be achieved. “To put it very simply, knowing the size density, composition, and characteristics of the people in exposed areas is critical for finding ways to help them adapt,” Schensul said.

Open Up Access to Existing Data

Much of the information needed is already available, said José Miguel Guzmán, regional coordinator of demographic and health surveys at ICF International, a consulting firm that, among other things, works with public and private organizations to plan for environmental change. Extensive census and survey data for many regions is there to be had, but climate researchers don’t or can’t take advantage of it. For example, he noted that the UN’s 2010 World Population and Housing Census, which covered more than 90 percent of the world’s population, provides information on household capacities such as construction materials and the availability of temperature control, but has been largely ignored by the climate field.

Rather than invest in new large-scale data collection programs, Guzmán said existing data sets can be adapted to give analysts the information they need to assess a population’s resilience and vulnerability to climate shocks. The challenge, he said, is opening up access.

Because census and survey data is primarily collected by individual countries, information is often kept confidential and not made available to foreign researchers. Further, the sheer quantity of information being collected from different sources makes analysis cumbersome without proper standardization – especially for researchers from another field. “There is so much data available that just a compilation of indicators on everything in existence in a central database is not very useful,” he said.

Guzmán suggested that action be taken to increase access to national censuses and surveys and implement cross-country trainings to facilitate knowledge transfer and establish standard data collection methods. “What we propose here is the need to create, reprocess, [and] rearrange existing individual and household data to map and analyze the vulnerabilities and adaptive capacities to climate change impacts,” he said.

Geocoding Vulnerability

Once data is available, geographic information systems (GIS) can be a powerful tool to link different indicators in multi-level, customizable maps that policymakers understand, said United Nations Population Fund consultant Sainan Zhang.

As part of her interactive presentation, Zhang showed how indicators as diverse as “the percentage of people that are involved with agriculture, whether a household has a grass roof, and whether a household has a radio to get information” can be combined to show different levels of vulnerability in Malawi.

GIS technology can also be used to model climate scenarios, and combined with thorough household-level indicators, create very detailed maps of vulnerability. “For each risk level we can have a closer look at their population structure and housing conditions, and in this way we can know where the high risk areas are and who lives there,” Zhang said.

Population Data Helps Connect the Dots

Watching the event from the Society of Environmental Journalists Conference in Chattanooga, Tennessee, several journalists asked the panelists their advice on how best to report such a complex story of climate change, urbanization, and vulnerability/resilience.

Schensul urged them to “pay attention to the secondary and tertiary cities,” pointing out that nearly 1.9 billion people live in cities smaller than 500,000 residents. “The majority of the population in coming decades will continue to live in cities under a million people, and these cities are precisely those that don’t necessarily have the enormous resources, the capacity, and the ability to engage with international partners to conduct international adaptation activities.”

“There is no doubt that census and household survey data are excellence sources of good and quality data for climate change adaptation,” said Guzmán. “This is an important area of research and practical work that can help to connect the dots between individual and community adaptation, between demography and geography, and between environment and population dynamics.”

By providing a framework linking demography and adaptation, The Demography of Adaptation to Climate Change attempts to close a major gap in climate research and provide the foundations for continued research.

“We all understand the complexities of communication around climate change, and this work we hope will contribute, by making data accessible and by making population change understandable,” said Schensul.

Event Resources:

Image Credit: 2010 U.S. census data on density of adults (red) and children (blue) in the Bay Area, courtesy of flickr user Eric Fischer.

GeoCensos would like to invite geo developers communities and UNFPA stakeholders to follow the Geocensos Mapps Hackathon an event to develop geo apps to solve the challenges of using open source for population and climate. 

This event will take place next October 4 and 5 in 12 different cities of the north of South America and mostly all Central American countries

We envision that more than 600 registered participants will join us to massively collaborate and create geographic applications and visualizations of the geographic issues of population and climate of six countries, mainly Colombia, Guatemala, Panamá, El Salvador, Ecuador and Venezuela. 

GeoCensos foundation has organized this initiative, calling teams of interdisciplinary participants who will use geographic publicly available data to develop innovative solutions within a series of environmental challenges such as smart cities, coastal tourism, natural disasters, regional climatic change and the development in cities starting in San Salvador to Cuenca, Ecuador.

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