climate change impacts on population


Climate changes such as rising sea levels will have important consequences for the population given current settlement patterns. As temperatures increase and sea level rises at faster rates than previously observed, a substantial number of persons currently live in coastal areas considered at high risk for sea level rise, flooding and storm surges. Research on climate often makes a case for the likely impacts of global warming on human populations, yet the resulting climate change scenarios are rarely–if ever–related to current or future population estimates. Investigations in the geophysical sciences continue to use static estimates of current population, while demographic analyses have focused on coarse, brush-stroke models of population projections at the country-level without regard for local or spatial variability. While important in their own right, these approaches have yielded estimates that mask spatial variability in climate impacts on populations at the sub-national scale and provide little to no knowledge on future populations in these areas, their composition, migration patterns, or other population characteristics that shape human interactions (e.g., racial/ethnic tensions) and population behavior (e.g., land use). This information is critical for understanding the vulnerability of specific population groups, for planning mitigation and adaptation strategies, and for informing policy on responses to and preparedness for environmental change. Our research directly links population and climate models at a localized scale that is meaningful for policy responses to anticipated environmental changes.

Recent publications

Curtis, K., Schneider, A. (2011). First estimates of localized human impact of future climate change. Population and Environment, doi: D10.1007/s11111-011-0136-2.

Schneider, A., Curtis, K., Kucharik, C. (2014). Understanding the impacts of future climate change in Wisconsin: estimates of localized population predictions in three disparate regions. Forthcoming.

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Research questions

How will potential climate change – including increased variability in heat waves and sea level rise – affect populations at local to regional scales?

Research team

Katherine Curtis, Annemarie Schneider, Chris Kucharik

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