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A systematic approach is needed for understanding and responding to cross-border impacts of climate change

A conceptualisation of cross-border impacts is a first step towards understanding them.

Blog Post

Published on 21 June 2021

Author(s): Tim Carter

Cross-border climate change impacts have received limited attention to date as climate change impacts, adaptation and vulnerability studies have mostly confined their attention to impacts and responses within the same geographical region. 

Cross-border climate change impacts occur remotely from the location of their initial impact and in some cases can severely disrupt societies and livelihoods. The interconnections and propagation of impacts that are involved can create complex dynamics that are challenging to trace and understand. This also complicates the design and implementation of adaptation responses. 

A conceptualisation of cross-border impacts is a first step towards understanding them. The conceptual framework presented here provides a simple, but flexible, structure to describe and analyse such impacts and their consequences. It offers a foundation for consistent comparisons of different patterns of cross-border impacts in different sectors and geographies. It can also be used to inform adaptation planning. The framework can help in the identification of subtle dynamics that may guide new empirical research and data collection as well as model development. In particular, with systematic application of the framework it is possible to highlight gaps in our existing understanding of system dynamics, or gain new insights into particular leverage points within the system. These can be targeted in order to find ways of building resilience to climate change, whether in the region of initial impact, in relation to the impact transmission system or in the recipient region exposed to the propagated risk.

In this video, I explain the elements of the framework and offer some illustrations of its possible application.

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You can access our paper ‘A conceptual framework for cross-border impacts of climate change’ published in Global Environmental Change here.