Understanding the spatial dynamics of population composition and characteristics is crucial for enhance climate change resilience at local, national and regional level. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) have been widely used to identify accurate hazard exposure zones, but population data, particularly census data are not sufficiently used in identifying the vulnerable individuals and communities and the factors that exaggerate vulnerability to climate change. UNFPA initiated an approach of using population data, environmental data, and other social-economic survey data for climate change policy formulation and adaptation planning. Progress to date is compiled in the book The Demography of Adaptation to Climate Change in collaboration with International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and El Colegio de Mexico, as well as a manual for using census data for climate change adaptation.
Our current work focuses on scaling up this approach and making it accessible to climate practitioners and policy makers around the work, via the interactive social web platform POPClimate and the development of new technology to use the analytics revolution for automating spatial analysis. UNFPA is working with the private sector company Wolfram Alpha, which specializes in computational knowledge engines, in the development of DECA — Demographic Explorer for Climate Adaptation — an online tool built into POPClimate. This tool integrates a wide range of data using common geography, and then provides users – including those without data expertise – with the ability to use maps to generate automated spatial analysis. Unlike other platforms, this is not a visualization tool. It generates actual analysis through automated computation, allowing users to examine population vulnerability, disaggregate by age, sex and household composition, link to housing quality and service access in climate exposed areas, identify and quantify vulnerable infrastructure, etc. It also provides the potential for open access to data for policy makers and the general republic. DECAs for the city and district of Semarang, Indonesia, and for the full country of Malawi are available, and with the right data inputs DECAs can be generated for any other context.
This initiative is the result of collaboration between UNFPA, governments, NGOs at global and national level, academia and the private sector. This diversity has been essential to generate the combination of knowledge and method development, networks for data sharing and policy influence, and state-of-the-art technological advances. For future scale up, expanding partnerships with governments interested in implementing this work is vital. We also aim to build partnership with organizations, and academics which are intersection with other spatial data producers and users. Additional financial resources are also critical to support expanding the DECA tool to automate data processing as well as analysis, to operate in more countries, and to ensure that the data and approach get used at local level to influence policies and programming.