According to new IIASA research, education makes people less vulnerable to natural disasters such as floods, landslides, and storms that are expected to intensify with climate change.
Given that some climate change is already unavoidable—as just confirmed by the new IPCC report—investing in empowerment through universal education should be an essential element in climate change adaptation efforts, which so far focus mostly in engineering projects, according to a new study from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) published in the journal Science.
The article draws upon extensive analysis of natural disaster data for 167 countries over the past four decades as well as a number of studies carried out in individual countries and regions, published last year in a special issue of the journal Ecology and Society.
The research shows that in many cases—particularly where the exact consequences of climate change are still unclear—educational expansion could be a better investment in protecting people from the impacts than conventional investments such as building sea walls, dams, irrigation systems, and other infrastructure.
“Education is key in reducing disaster fatalities and enhancing adaptive capacity,” says Wolfgang Lutz, Director of IIASA’s World Population Program and Founding Director of the Wittgenstein Centre for Demography and Global Human Capital, a collaboration of IIASA, the Austrian Academy of Sciences, and the Vienna University of Economics, who wrote the article together with IIASA researchers Raya Muttarak and Erich Striessnig, who have dual affiliations with the Vienna Institute of Demography and the Vienna University of Economics and Business, respectively.
“Our research shows that education is more important than GDP in reducing mortality from natural disasters. We also demonstrated that under rapid development and educational expansion across the globe, disaster fatalities will be reduced substantially,” says Muttarak.
Climate models project that extreme weather events such as hurricanes are likely to increase with climate change. And with rising sea levels, floods will become a greater danger in low-lying coastal areas. So researchers from IIASA’s World Population Program launched a major research project to explore the connections between fatality rates in such disasters, education levels, and other potential factors that could contribute to resilience such as wealth and health.
Previous research had shown that education plays a major role in development, including poverty alleviation and economic growth. In regard to climate change adaption, “Education directly improves knowledge, the ability to understand and process information, and risk perception. It also indirectly enhances socioeconomic status and social capital. These are qualities and skills useful for surviving and coping with disasters”, says Muttarak.
The new study shows that education is the key factor in enhancing adaptive capacity to already unavoidable climate change. This insight is also reflected in the new generation of IPCC-related scenarios, the Shared Socioeconomic Pathways (SSPs) which were developed by IIASA researchers in collaboration with other leading global change research institutes to jointly capture different future socioeconomic challenges for climate change mitigation and adaptation.
Using these SSPs, the new study illustrates how alternative future trajectories in education lead to greatly differing numbers of expected deaths due to climate change. Therefore, says Striessnig, “Investment in human capital not only empowers people to achieve desirable socioeconomic outcomes, but it also has a protective function against diverse impacts climate change may have over the coming decades."
With 100 billion dollars currently pledged per year for climate funding through the Green Climate Fund, the researchers say it is vital to examine where the money would have the greatest impact.
Striessnig says, “We need to think about how to best allocate the funds raised for the adaptation to future climate change. Currently many of these funds are destined to support less flexible engineering projects or agricultural strategies. Such efforts are also vitally important, but in light of the major uncertainties about climate change impacts, it makes sense to invest some of the funds in mechanisms that will empower people to flexibly adapt to whatever changes might occur.”
Lutz W, Muttarak R, Striessnig E. 2014. Universal education is key to enhanced climate adaptation. Science. 28 November 2014 • Vol. 346 no. 6213 doi:10.1126/science.1257975
For more information contact:
IIASA World Population Program
+43(0) 2236 807 294
IIASA World Population Program
Vienna Institute of Demography
+43(0) 2236 807 329
IIASA World Population Program
Vienna University of Economics and Business
+43(0) 2236 807 519
IIASA Press Office
Tel: +43 2236 807 316
Mob: +43 676 83 807 316
IIASA is an international scientific institute that conducts research into the critical issues of global environmental, economic, technological, and social change that we face in the twenty-first century. Our findings provide valuable options to policy makers to shape the future of our changing world. IIASA is independent and funded by scientific institutions in Africa, the Americas, Asia, Oceania, and Europe. www.iiasa.ac.at
Katherine Leitzell | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
Fixating on faces
26.01.2017 | California Institute of Technology
Internet use in class tied to lower test scores
16.12.2016 | Michigan State University
In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport
Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...
The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.
The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...
Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...
Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".
Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...
13.02.2017 | Event News
10.02.2017 | Event News
09.02.2017 | Event News
23.02.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
23.02.2017 | Earth Sciences
23.02.2017 | Life Sciences