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December 08 2011


Mapping the Story of Climate Change

For this week's climate meetings in Durban, the World Bank released a series of maps showing the predicted impact of climate change on the world between now and 2100.

The data is dismal. If climate change continues unmitigated as it has for the past century, temperatures around the world will increase 5 degrees Celsius (9 degrees Fahrenheit) by 2100 -- the equivalent increase between today's climate and the last ice age. This change won't impact the world equally, with local changes varying from almost none to more than 10 degrees Celsius, depending on scenario, location and season.

All of these maps were designed using Development Seed's TileMill, an easy-to-use open-source map design tool that we've written about here before, and hosted on MapBox Hosting. TileMill is free to download and has loads of documentation to help people get started making maps. For design tips on map making, check out a blog post from Development Seed's AJ Ashton on the thinking behind the design of these maps.

Preparing for climate change

These maps tell the story of the anticipated impact of climate change, from the basics of where we'll see the biggest increase in temperature and fluctuation in precipitation levels to larger societal impacts on food security, countries' economies, and people's vulnerability to natural disasters. With these maps, the World Bank aims to not only show the urgency in preparing for climate changes, but also to target efforts to the countries and regions that will be most affected.

This map shows the expected worldwide temperature increases, assuming that global population continues to increase and regionally oriented economic growth is slower than in other scenarios.

Agriculture is expected to be one of the most affected industries, impacting countries' economies -- and only more so for ones whose GDP (gross domestic product) is made up largely of agriculture-related business. For example, agriculture is 61.3 percent of Liberia's GDP and 47.68 percent of Ethiopia's, while it's just 1.24 percent of the U.S. GDP.

Low-lying coastal areas will likely be more vulnerable to increased flooding, with countries such as Bangladesh, Myanmar and India at highest risk due to the huge populations that live there.

More details on the maps are available in this blog post by Development Seed's Alex Barth.

The data powering the maps is all publicly available from the World Bank, as part of its larger open data push with data.worldbank.org. This and other related climate data is all housed in its Open Data Resources for Climate Change. The World Bank is encouraging people to use this data and is hosting an Apps for Climate challenge to promote and reward this use. Check out the details, and be sure to submit your app by March 16.

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