August 9, 2013 at 7:01 pm

Geography Professors Contribute to Climate Adaptation Workshop, Tanzania Research

By Austin Stahl

Climate change typically isn’t mentioned in the same sentence as security, but experts and policy makers are beginning to make the connection more frequently. Three Geography faculty members—Associate Professor Dr. Edna Wangui and Assistant Professors Dr. Thomas Smucker and Dr. Gaurav Sinha—are contributing to this growing body of research and the efforts to share that knowledge for the benefit of communities around the world.

Along with Dr. Geoff Dabelko, they are involved in global efforts to help communities and nations adapt to climate change, which is already impacting many areas including agriculture, precipitation and weather patterns, and access to crucial resources like water. Dabelko is the Director of Environmental Studies at Ohio University.

In November 2012, Dabelko and Wangui presented at a conference hosted by the Wilson Center in Washington D.C. called “Climate Change Adaptation and Peacebuilding in Africa: An Adaptation Partnership Workshop Series.” Dabelko, who has previously given talks about climate adaptation and peace building, spoke about the connections between climate change and conflict, while Wangui led a discussion about the opportunities for peace building between governments, communities, non-government and international organizations. The workshop, sponsored by the Wilson Center and the Institute for Security Studies with funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development and U.S. Department of State, focused on finding productive ways to best facilitate these relationships.

“In general, you have researchers working on climate change adaptation, and policy makers trying to write national policies that can best address adaptation to climate change,” Wangui said in a recent interview. “Simultaneously, you have a different set of people dealing with conflict and security—a lot of the time these people aren’t talking to each other. There need to be institutions that are working on these issues together at the ground level. How to operationalize that remains to be seen, but the workshop is a step in the right direction.”

Climate change can contribute to conflicts arising from resource availability, especially in developing countries that will be most affected by extreme weather events. For example, drought in Africa can lead to increased water scarcity, and glacial melt in the Andes could bring shortages of water to an area where it was once plentiful. A growing body of evidence is finding extreme weather events like drought may worsen from the effects of climate change, causing greater concern.

Wangui, who has extensive knowledge on the effects of climate change in Africa, is also working with Smucker and Sinha on an initiative called the “Local Knowledge & Climate Change Adaptation Project” (LKCCAP), a collaboration between U.S. and Tanzanian researchers to understand local climate adaptation in northern Tanzania. Funded by the National Science Foundation, the interdisciplinary research team brings together experts from the fields of development geography, disaster risk management, economics, ecology, cultural linguistics, geographic information science and climatology. Five Ohio University graduate students and two undergraduates from the geography department have also been involved in the project.

Wangui said they have witnessed the link between climate and conflict in their research in Tanzania.

Read the rest of the story at the Ohio University Consortium for Energy, Economics & the Environment.

Update April 9, 2013: Click here for information from the Wilson Center regarding the release of the report from the workshop.

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