Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN) Columbia University
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Environment and Security Program at CIESIN

About the Program
Environmental stress and human security are increasingly seen as intertwined. The Environment and Security Program at CIESIN explores these intersections via scientific and applied research, data set development, and educational activities.
Current Projects
CIESIN uses its transdisciplinary expertise to contribute to a wide variety of projects and activities focused on environment and security issues.
Environmental Security in Mali: Improving Livelihoods by Addressing Climate and Water Risks, Land Management, and Transhumance
CIESIN will work with NASA researchers and the global humanitarian organization Mercy Corps to assess current and future trends in livelihoods of communities dependent on agriculture, livestock and fishery production (studying villages but also transitory groups such as fishermen and pastoralists), in the Inner Niger Delta of Mali. The work will analyze environmental impacts from climate change, conflict, and land degradation; changes to river and delta water resources from dam and irrigation development; and livelihood diversity and migration patterns as a result of changes in the deltaic system. Funded by the NASA Earth Science Division Global Partners Program.
Data ANalytics and Tools for Ecosecurity
CIESIN is partnering with ISciences and Case Consulting International on a project, Data ANalytics and Tools for Ecosecurity (DANTE), to develop an open source software toolkit for systematic monitoring, forecasting, and analysis of environmental stressors and their impacts on security. Supported by the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC), DANTE focuses on the role of environmental stressors in three key areas: international migration and refugee flows; internal migration and isolated populations; and conflict and political instability. The tools are being designed to accelerate quantitative interdisciplinary analysis of environmental stressors, taking into account demographics, economics, health, conflict, hazards, and other factors.
Addressing Climate-Forced Displacement in Africa
A new project under the African Union Commission, the UN Development Programme, and the World Bank, with support from the Robert Bosch Foundation, aims for a comprehensive report on the scope, nature, and implications of climate-forced mobility on the African continent. CIESIN will build a comprehensive climate-forced mobility model informed by a wide range of drivers—sea level rise, desertification, land degradation, extreme weather events, landslide, floods, rise in temperatures, water scarcity, and decreased crop yield—for 2030 and 2050. The model will have three to four scenarios, informed by combinations of two climate trends outlined in the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on emissions: low (or moderate) and high; and have two possible development trends: unequal (or fragmented) and conventional development.
Former Projects
Groundswell II and Groundswell Africa Reports
This collaboration between the World Bank Climate Change Group, CIESIN, and City University of New York (CUNY) Institute for Demographic Research builds on the work of the Groundswell project, modeling the ways in which climate impacts out to 2050 will induce migration that could reshape population distributions. The focus of Groundswell II is the remaining World Bank regions—North Africa, Mashreq (the Middle East), the Balkans, Central Asia, East and Southeast Asia, and the Small Island Developing States (SIDS). Groundswell employs a novel modeling framework that provides estimates not only of future numbers, but also likely hotspots of climate out-migration and in-migration. 
Drivers of Migration in and out of West Africa
CIESIN is teaming with scientists at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), and the Earth Institute’s Center for Climate Systems Research (CCSR) on a four-year grant from the National Science Foundation to integrate climate science, crop modeling, geography, economics and political science in the study and prediction of migration within and out of West Africa. This trans-disciplinary approach aims to increase understanding of the convergence of complex factors that influence migration, from climate and environmental influences to changing political, social, economic and demographic conditions, locally and globally.
Troubled Teleconnections: Migration, the COVID 19 Pandemic, and Climate in Central America’s Northern Triangle
Under an Earth Frontiers seed grant, the team is investigating the observed and projected impacts of the compound risks of climate impacts and COVID-19 pandemic on current trends and future scenarios of climate-induced migration in Central America’s Northern Triangle (Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador), using a mixed methods approach based on diagnostic and projecting modeling and qualitative comparative analysis.
West Africa Biodiversity and Climate Change (WA-BiCC)
This five-year, $48.9 million dollar project addressed direct and indirect drivers of natural resource degradation to improve livelihoods and natural ecosystems across the region. It worked with partners at the community, national, and regional levels, including the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Manu River Union (MRU), to strengthen policies and systems that will improve natural resource management and the health and resilience of selected coastal and upland forest ecosystems. The project was divided into three complementary components: combatting wildlife trafficking, improving forest conservation, and building coastal climate resilience. An implementing partner with Tetra Tech/ARD, CIESIN contributed to the last two components.
Climate Services for Women Vegetable Growers: Exploring New Avenues for Building Resilience to Climate Risks in Rural Senegal
This project combines expertise from climate science, economics, nutrition, and anthropology to provide preliminary evidence about potential effectiveness of new climate services for women in horticulture in Senegal. Based on this pilot project, which is funded by an Earth Frontiers seed grant, the team will develop a larger proposal to implement a climate information service designed using the results of the pilot study, and rigorously evaluate the impacts of the information service in order to guide the scale-up and the design of climate information services for women farmers in horticulture in Senegal and elsewhere. The Senegalese Agricultural Research institute (ISRA) will implement the fieldwork.
Spatial Data for Fragile States. Fragile states have found it difficult to harness the power of spatial data for governance, despite proven successes in other settings. CIESIN was activie in leading a consortium of fragile state governments, spatial data experts and global policy makers in developing an action plan for implementing spatial data infrastructure in fragile states, and hosted a conference at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center, Italy, to launch this effort.
Platform for Haiti Data and Resources. As part of the Haiti Research and Policy Program at the Earth Institute, CIESIN developed the Haiti Geoportal, a platform for environmental and other spatial data and resources from ongoing research in Haiti. Featuring an online interactive map, the geoportal enables communities and partners to download maps of benchmarks for core integrated development indicators, household socio-economic variables, and environmental features.
Mapping and Technical Support for Haiti. CIESIN provided technical support to the Office of E-Governance in Haiti in a range of mapping and data collection activities to help enhance governance in Haiti and national strategic planning.
Capacity-Building in West Africa. For the Environmental Protection Agency of Sierra Leone, CIESIN conducted a needs assessment to help the agency build up its spatial analysis, mapping, and environmental monitoring and modeling capabilities, Assessing Vulnerability to Climate Change. For the project African and Latin American Resilience to Climate Change (ARCC), technical support in climate science, vulnerability assessments, and vulnerability mapping was provided by CIESIN and Tetra Tech/ARD, the World Resources Institute, and others. Funded by USAID.
Climate Adaptation Information Systems for East Africa. For the project Planning for Resilience in East Africa through Policy, Adaptation, Research, and Economic Development (PREPARED), CIESIN and Tetra Tech/ARD assisted in the design of data and information systems for climate change adaptation, biodiversity conservation, and water supply and sanitation services in East Africa. Funded by USAID.
CIESIN has offered workshops, academic courses, and trainings on different aspects of environment and security linkages, including an executive training in environmental peacebuilding. It has also developed multimedia educational materials.

Webinar: Population, Climate Change, and Food Security
An online cyberseminar focuses on analysis of the population-climate change-food security nexus using methodological tools and concepts in demography, geography, economics, systems analysis, and other related fields. Hosted by International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) and CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) and organized by IIASA, University of Minnesota, CUNY Baruch, CIESIN-Columbia University, Environmental Science for Social Chang), Population Council and Asian Population Research Center, and Escola Nacional de Ciências Estatísticas-ENCE.

Environmental Security and Sustaining Peace MOOC. Launched in March 2018, this free, eight-week Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) gave an in-depth introduction to the multiple roles that natural resources and the environment play in the onset, escalation, and resolution of, and recovery from, violent conflicts. The course was aimed at peace and security specialists, natural resource experts, sustainable development practitioners, and advanced undergraduates and graduate students. CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy was among core faculty that include Erika Weinthal, Richard Matthew, David Jensen, and Carl Bruch. The non-credit-granting course was offered by the SDG Academy, an educational initiative of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

Annual Course in Environment, Conflict, and Resolution Strategies. Formerly offered each year at the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs, this course which CIESIN developed provides an overview of links between environment, peace, and security and how such links are reflected in national policies, international programs, and business and NGO initiatives. An element of the course was an online simulation of a post-crisis conflict assessment and program implementation, “Ground|Work,” developed with the Columbia Center for New Media Teaching and Learning.
Mapping Spatial Patterns of Vulnerability in Mali (video)
Using the results of a mapping exercise for Mali, West Africa, as an example, this introduction to vulnerability mapping from the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center discusses how mapping the three main drivers of vulnerability to climate change can help in the development of interventions.

Environmental Peacebuilding Academy
An online educational partnership to cultivate the next generation of environmental peacebuilding practitioners, researchers, and decision makers. CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy is a founding member. Members teach classes related to environmental peacebuilding and are committed to using and promoting the Knowledge Platform and Community of Practice. Environmental peacebuilding integrates natural resource management with conflict prevention, mitigation, resolution, and recovery to build resilience in communities affected by conflict. The Academy is a collaborative effort of the Environmental Law Institute, UNEP, McGill University, and the University of Tokyo.
A Living Manual for Climate Information for Adaptation Planning (May 2020, online). This living manual written by CIESIN researchers is intended for those preparing National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) or specific adaptation interventions, offering guidance for using climate information in the context of adaptation planning. The material was developed in the context of a coastal adaptation project in West Africa—the USAID-funded West Africa Biodiversity and Climate Change project—but recommended for anyone interested in the application of climate information for adaptation planning and development interventions. This web-based resource is called a “living manual” since the contents have been updated based on the needs and feedback of participants in a series of country workshops held in the West Africa region.

Khan, S., R.S. Chen, and A. de Sherbinin. 2020. COREDAR: A coastal climate service framework on sea-level rise risk communication for adaptation policy planning. In Handbook of Climate Services, eds. W.L. Filho and D. Jacob, 85–104. Springer, Cham.

Khan, S., K. Macmanus, J. Mills, M. Madajewicz, and L. Ramasubramanian. 2020. Building resilience of urban ecosystems and communities to sea-level rise: Jamaica Bay, New York City. In Handbook of Climate Change Resilience, ed. W. L. Filho, 95–115. Springer, Cham.

Climate Emergency, Urban Opportunity. (September 2019, 160 pages, 14 MB PDF). A report from the Coalition for Urban Transitions finds that, because sea level rise exacerbates flooding and storm surge, it is a critical threat to urban coastal areas. Research and analysis by Columbia University’s CIESIN contributed to the new findings, based on an updated version of the Low Elevation Coastal Zone Urban Rural Population Estimates. This data set was the outcome of a 2007 study by a team from CIESIN and the International Institute for Environment and Development, which provided the first global estimates of impacts to urban populations from sea level rise.
Groundswell: Preparing for Internal Migration. (March 2018, 256 pages, 63.59 MB PDF.) This report by World Bank staff and a team of researchers at CIESIN, the City University of New York Institute for Demographic Research, and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research is the first to focus on longer-term climate impacts on crop and water resources and the ways in which they may influence internal migration. It employs a novel modeling framework that provides estimates not only of future numbers, but also likely hotspots of climate out-migration and in-migration in three regions: Mexico and Central America, East Africa, and South Asia. Unlike other recent efforts to model the impact of future climate change on population movements, this effort models across entire regions rather than at local or subnational levels. It is also based upon impacts on crop production and water resources, using model outputs from PIK’s ISIMIP project, rather than projected temperature and precipitation from global climate models.
Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment in Mangrove Regions of Sierra Leone. Full Report (January 2018, 190 pages, 12.7 MB) The purpose of this coastal climate change vulnerability assessment is to understand factors that contribute to the vulnerability and resilience of communities and mangrove ecosystems in coastal Sierra Leone. The goal is to inform the design of project interventions, including climate adaptation activities under the West Africa Biodiversity and Climate Change (WA BiCC) project. The work was led by the Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN) at Columbia University, and included a team of field researchers drawn from WA BiCC staff, Fourah Bay College, Njala University, the National Protected Areas Authority (NPAA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security, the Ministry of Lands, Country Planning and Environment, the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Conservation Society of Sierra Leone and other stakeholders.
GEO-6 Regional Assessment for North America. (May 2016). A report on environmental trends in North America is one of six regional assessments produced as part of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Sixth Global Environmental Outlook (GEO-6), with key contributions from CIESIN. The report recognizes overall progress in policy-driven environmental conditions in North America, but identifies new risks to human wellbeing and ecosystems in the region. It emphasizes key emerging areas of concern: accelerated climate change impacts, water security issues, and land fragmentation/threats to biodiversity.
Loss and Damage: The Role of Ecosystem Services (April 2016, 80 pages, 12 MB PDF). This report, published by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) with contributions by CIESIN, focuses on the role of ecosystems in reducing loss and damage to climate change impacts, as well as the impacts of climate change on ecosystem services. Suggestions are also made for adaptation responses that harness ecosystem services. CIESIN contributed two case studies and associated maps, one on heat waves and flooding in India and Pakistan (Section 3.1), and another on drought and floods in the Sahel and East Africa (Section 3.2).
Transboundary River Basins: Status and Trends (April 2016, 378 pages, 29 MB PDF). A new report assesses the world’s 286 transboundary river basins, identifying risks and providing recommendations. The report is an outcome of the Transboundary Waters Assessment Programme, coordinated by the UNEP-DHI (Danish Hydrological Institute) Center on Waste and Environment in execution with international partners, for the Global Environmental Facility, with the aim of creating a baseline assessment of all transboundary water resources on Earth. CIESIN authored a chapter for which they calculated three socioeconomic indicators: economic dependence on water resources, societal wellbeing levels, and the risk of climate-related hazards. The Web site includes a Final Technical Report, a Summary for Policy Makers, and Interactive Results Portal with global maps of assessment results and indicator metadata sheets. All assessment results, analyses and supplementary data sets can be freely downloaded, and smaller file versions of the reports, minus the annexes, are also available.
Climate Change and Human Security. For the Working Group II’s contribution to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report (WGII AR5) on climate change impacts, adaptation and vulnerability, CIESIN deputy director Marc Levy was a lead author of chapter 12 on human security, a topic highlighted in the Report for the first time. Among this chapter’s key findings are that societies in conflict are more vulnerable to climate change; that migration is a widely used strategy for adapting to climate impacts; that climate change is likely to amplify conflict risk; and that climate change threatens to disrupt geopolitical security dynamics.
Peacebuilding and Natural Resouces Blog Series/EI State of the Planet. Earth Institute researchers, partners and experts in the international peacebuilding community explored a variety of topics related to managing natural resources to build peace, drawing on current issues and events and new research.
Designing Environmental Restoration Programs in Politically Fragile States: Lessons From Haiti.” A chapter by CIESIN program director Alex Fischer and Marc Levy in the book, Harnessing Natural Resources for Peacebuilding, explores the challenges of environmental restoration projects in countries and context of uncertainty and fragility.
“Climate Change Hotspots Mapping: What Have We Learned?” This article by CIESIN senior research associate Alex de Sherbinin, featured in a special issue of the journal Climatic Change, “Climate and Security: Evidence, Emerging Risks, and a New Agenda,” focuses on “hotspots” of climate change—regions especially vulnerable to current or future climate impacts where human security may be at risk.
“Enhancing the Relevance of Shared Socioeconomic Pathways for Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability Research.” Marc Levy is second author of the paper by Bas J. van Ruijven, Levy, and 22 colleagues. It appears in the Climatic Change Special Issue, "A Framework for the Development of New Socio-economic Scenarios for Climate Change Research.”
Where the Rain Falls: Climate Change, Food and Livelihood Security, and Migration Global Policy Report. (November 2012, 73 pages, 3.65 MB PDF). Released by CIESIN, CARE, and the United Nations University.
In Search of Shelter: Mapping the Effects of Climate Change on Human Migration and Displacement. (June 2009, 26 pages, 2.54 MB PDF) Climate change impacts are already causing displacement and migration, and consequences for almost all aspects of development, including human security and political stability could be devastating, says this report produced by CARE, CIESIN, UNHCR, UNU-EHS, and The World Bank. It contains original maps that pinpoint areas where climate change may cause displacement, and policy recommendations.
Assessment of Select Climate Change Impacts on U.S. National Security. (July 2008, 52 pages, 4.52 MB). This working paper resulted from research funded by the U.S. National Intelligence Council as an input to a National Intelligence Assessment on climate change implications for U.S. National Security, produced May 2008.


This page last modified: Jun 15, 2023