The status of climate change adaptation in Africa and Asia

2014 November 3

James D. Ford, Lea Berrang-Ford, Anna Bunce, Courtney McKay, Maya Irwin, Tristan Pearce. (2014). Regional Environmental Change. Find PDF here.


Adaptation is a key component of climate policy, yet we have limited and fragmented understanding of if and how adaptation is currently taking place. In this paper, we document and characterize the current status of adaptation in 47 vulnerable ‘hotspot’ nations in Asia and Africa, based on a systematic review of the peer-reviewed and grey literature, as well as policy documents, to extract evidence of adaptation initiatives. In total, 100 peer-reviewed articles, 161 grey literature documents, and 27 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change National Communications were reviewed, constituting 760 adaptation initiatives. Results indicate a significant increase in reported adaptations since 2006. Adaptations are primarily being reported from African and low-income countries, particularly those nations receiving adaptation funds, involve a combination of groundwork and more concrete adaptations to reduce vulnerability, and are primarily being driven by national governments, NGOs, and international institutions, with minimal involvement of lower levels of government or collaboration across nations. Gaps in our knowledge of adaptation policy and practice are particularly notable in North Africa and Central Asia, and there is limited evidence of adaptation initiatives being targeted at vulnerable populations including socioeconomically disadvantaged populations, children, indigenous peoples, and the elderly.

Increasing the Effectiveness of the “Great Green Wall” as an Adaptation to the Effects of Climate Change and Desertification in the Sahel

2014 October 27

David O’Connor, and James Ford. (2014). Sustainability 6(10), 7142-7154. Find PDF here.


The Great Green Wall (GGW) has been advocated as a means of reducing desertification in the Sahel through the planting of a broad continuous band of trees from Senegal to Djibouti. Initially proposed in the 1980s, the plan has received renewed impetus in light of the potential of climate change to accelerate desertification, although the implementation has been lacking in all but two of 11 countries in the region. In this paper, we argue that the GGW needs modifying if it is to be effective, obtain the support of local communities and leverage international support. Specifically, we propose a shift from planting trees in the GGW to utilizing shrubs (e.g., Leptospermum scoparium, Boscia senegalensis, Grewia flava, Euclea undulata or Diospyros lycioides), which would have multiple benefits, including having a faster growth rate and proving the basis for silvo-pastoral livelihoods based on bee-keeping and honey production.

Montreal screening of “Lament for the Land” at McGill a success

2014 October 17

The CCARG would like to thank everyone who made came to the Montreal premiere of “Lament for the Land”. We were very fortunate to have the director and CCARG collaborator Ashlee Cunsolo Willox at the screening to provide an informative introduction and answer questions afterwards. The film was shown to a packed room of 70 people at Thomson House and generated interesting discussions.

A special thank you to all the community members in Nunatsiavut who were so integral to the making of this film for sharing their stories! It was an impactful and thought provoking event attended by a variety of people from the McGill academic community and Montreal in general. Extended interviews can be found on the “Lament for the Land” website.

The film can be viewed here:

Stephanie Austin presented at Health Canada

2014 October 14

CCARG member Stephanie Austin presented on the work she and others been doing for both Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada in a presentation titled “Lessons for Canada in M&E and Health Adaptation.” This work is on health adaptation to climate change at all jurisdictions in Canada, health adaptation at the federal level in 9 OECD countries and Monitoring & Evaluation (M&E) of these federal health adaptation initiatives in OECD countries.

This work is part of a larger project conducted under the Tracking Research in Adaptation to Climate Change Consortium (TRAC3) and further information can be found at

The state of climate change adaptation in the Arctic

2014 October 9

James D Ford, Graham McDowell and Julie Jones. Environmental Research Letters. Find PDF here.

The Arctic climate is rapidly changing, with wide ranging impacts on natural and social systems. A variety of adaptation policies, programs and practices have been adopted to this end, yet our understanding of if, how, and where adaptation is occurring is limited. In response, this paper develops a systematic approach to characterize the current state of adaptation in the Arctic. Using reported adaptations in the English language peer reviewed literature as our data source, we document 157 discrete adaptation initiatives between 2003 and 2013. Results indicate large variations in adaptation by region and sector, dominated by reporting from North America, particularly with regards to subsistence harvesting by Inuit communities. Few adaptations were documented in the European and Russian Arctic, or have a focus on the business and economy, or infrastructure sectors. Adaptations are being motivated primarily by the combination of climatic and non-climatic factors, have a strong emphasis on reducing current vulnerability involving incremental changes to existing risk management processes, and are primarily initiated and led at the individual/community level. There is limited evidence of trans-boundary adaptations or initiatives considering potential cross-scale/sector impacts.

Montreal Screening of “Lament for the Land” at Thomson House, Thursday October 16th, 6:15pm

2014 October 8

The CCARG is happy to be hosting a free screening of “Lament for the Land” Thursday October 16th at 6:15pm in the Thomson House basement lounge. There will be a Q&A session after the film with director and CCARG collaborator Dr. Ashlee Cunsolo Willox. The event is open to the public.

Watch the trailer for the film below:

Marie-Pierre Lardeau presents at the Beringia Center in Whitehorse, Yukon

2014 October 8

The IHACC (Indigenous Health Adaptation to Climate Change) project manager, Marie-Pierre Lardeau, presented at the Communicating Climate Change Adaptation lecture series at the Yukon Beringia Centre in Whitehorse on October 2nd 2014.

Her presentation Community Based Approaches to Adaptation to Climate Change, Experiences from the Field: Stories from the Arctic discussed community-based adaptation from the research perspective showcasing four case studies in Inuit Arctic communities.

During the fall of 2014, the Beringia Centre, in partnership with the Yukon Arts Centre and the Yukon Development Education Centre, is proud to be presenting a film and lecture series on climate change adaptation. This lecture series is part of a larger Yukon Government project on climate change adaptation issues facing the Yukon, and is funded by Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada’s Climate Change Adaptation Program.

Watch Marie-Pierre’s presentation below, and learn more about this event by visiting their website.

Diego Lindoso receives the CAPES dissertation award 2014

2014 October 8

Congratulations to Diego Lindoso for winning the CAPES dissertation award, in particular the prize for the best Brazilian dissertation on Environmental studies in 2013, granted by the Brazilian Government every year. Diego was a visiting CCARG lab member in 2012/2013. This prize is the most important award that a PhD in a Brazilian academy can be granted. Besides the prize, Diego was granted a three-year post-doc scholarship.

The award is called Pêmio Tese CAPES 2014 (Capes dissertation award 2014). CAPES is the Brazilian Federal Agency for the Support and Evaluation of Graduate Education. Every year it awards the best Brazilian dissertation in all fields under its coordination.

Diego’s dissertation is titled Vulnerability and Adaptation of life to droughts: challenges to rural sustainability in Brazilian Semiarid. The research was based on two case studies in Brazilian Semiarid. One, in 2011, during a regular raining season, and the other, in 2012/2013, considered the worst drought event in the last 50 years. 500 surveys with smallholders and 80 semi-structured interviews with key institutional stakeholders were applied, covering 11 municipalities in three states in Brazilian Semiarid. The research looked at the causal chain of drought impacts in different spatial and temporal levels of smallholder agriculture, identifying specific sensitivities, exposures, adaptive capacity and adaptation barriers. The points of entry to adaptation strategies were highlighted and liked to current and possible future adaptation/development policies. Finally, a conceptual framework to assess smallholder farming vulnerability was proposed.

The results point out that even though farmers have some resilience to drought – maintaining activities trought out many extreme drought events along the centuries – they are very vulnerable, bearing great impacts and losses after such events. Based on the results and future climate change scenarios, the activities will be hardly possible in a near future and the farmers are gradually abandoning farming. Extreme drought events, such 2012, or a sequence of moderate events may be turning points that fosters the abandoning process. The study revealed that there are already a sufficient set of adaptive technologies, but key barriers, specially related to institutional aspects, don’t allow them to reach the farmers. A well structured institutional framework covering development policies that are not explicitly adaptive but have a great potential to support climate change vulnerability reduction was identified. In this context, one of the challenges for the climate change agenda in Brazil is to “contaminate” development agenda with adaptation concerns, highlighting connections and avoiding oppositions.

Dr. James Ford awarded CIHR Applied Public Health Chair

2014 October 6

Dr. James Ford recently became one of twelve CIHR Applied Public Health Chairs in Canada. This award supports Dr. Ford’s research and the Evaluating Health Adaptation to Climate Change (EvHACC) program. The objectives of the Applied Public Health Chair initiative are to:

  • Support high quality and focused programs of policy and program intervention research of national relevance to public health
  • Foster formal linkages with the public health system to support the timely and effective application of research into policies, programs and practice.
  • Support Canadian universities to develop graduate and continuous education programs in public health
  • Stimulate innovative approaches in public health intervention research, mentorship, education and knowledge translation
  • Educate and mentor the current and next generation of public health researchers (trainees, post-graduate students and junior faculty), practitioners and policy makers.

To read more about this specific award, please click here.

To read more about the CIHR Applied Public Health Chair initiative, please visit their website.

Project abstract

Climate change has been described as the greatest threat to public health this century, with Indigenous populations identified as ‘highly vulnerable’. The global response to the risks posed has been to focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This is imperative yet the science shows that we will not be able to avoid climate change, with the World Health Organization estimating that the direct health impacts alone will cost $2-4bn/yr by 2030 globally. For this reason, finding ways to adapt our health systems and behavior to reduce the risks of climate change is imperative, and is reflected in the increasing urgency with which governments at various levels in Canada and internationally are beginning to prioritize adaptation. Yet what can we do to adapt? How can we reduce the risks posed by climate change? What evidence is there on what will work? Unfortunately we have few answers to these questions, particularly for Indigenous populations including Canada’s Inuit who are living in a region experiencing the most dramatic climate change anywhere. Indeed, the health community has long neglected climate change as a risk and is only beginning to recognize the magnitude of the problem. Canadian research is at the vanguard of such developments, and Dr Ford’s team have spent over a decade working with Indigenous communities examining the risks posed by climate change to health and identifying risk factors. The program of research proposed here will take this to the next step, evaluating specific interventions for reducing the health impacts of climate change for 3 Indigenous populations: Inuit of Canada, Shipibo in the Amazon, and Batwa of Central Africa. The project builds upon ongoing research projects held by Dr Ford from the IDRC & tri-councils, has strong buy-in at multiple levels of health governance, and will work with decision maker partners to systematically and rigorous evaluate and prioritize potential health adaptations.

Anna Bunce presenting at Geography in Action! this Friday October 3rd

2014 September 30

Anna Bunce, MA candidate from our department, will be presenting highlights from her fieldwork and research at noon on Friday in Burnside 426, as part of the Brown Bag Seminar Series. Her talk is titled “Research in Iqaluit: Navigating friendships and working relationships while researching how Inuit women experience climate change.” Light refreshments will be provided, please bring your lunch.

Montreal ranks in the top 10 of student cities globally: QS survey

2014 September 29

In a recent global survey, Montreal ranked #9 of best cities globally to be a student, ranking #1 in Canada and #2 in North America. The CCARG is happy to be located in one of world’s top student cities.

As originally published on the QS Top Universities website

Image from:

Home to several of Canada’s highest ranking institutions, including McGill University (currently ranked 21st in the world), Montréal has been dubbed Canada’s cultural capital, and one of the world’s most liveable cities.

As a French-speaking city in a largely English-speaking nation that has experienced mass immigration from all over the world in the past decades, Montréal has a distinctly hybrid culture. The city boasts a world-renowned indie music scene and is the site of several major international festivals, including the Montréal International Jazz Festival and the world’s largest comedy festival, Just for Laughs.

With a relatively large and diverse student population, Montréal gets its strongest score in the ‘Student Mix’ category of the Best Student Cities index. Its weakest point is affordability – but in fact it beats most of the other top 10 student cities on this indicator, barring Hong Kong and Munich.

Continue reading here about why Montreal, Canada is a great place to be a student.

Congratulations to Michelle Maillet on completing her M.A. thesis

2014 September 26

Longtime Climate Change Adaptation Research Group lab member and McGill University graduate student, Michelle Maillet, has completed her M.A. thesis titled “Is the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change an effective (or appropriate) institution for supporting indigenous peoples’ adaptation to climate change?”

Michelle started working with the CCARG in May 2010 as a research assistant, where her role included editing the book “Climate Change Adaptation in Developed Nations: From Theory to Practice“.  In September 2011, she started her M.A. as a graduate student at McGill under the supervision of Dr. James Ford. She completed her thesis in the summer of 2014. Michelle also held the position of project manager for the IHACC project from January to September 2013. As a research assistant and graduate student, Michelle went to the 16th, 17th and 18th sessions of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change as a representative of McGill University and the CCARG. She developed her research topic and question at these sessions.

Additionally, Michelle has contributed greatly to the geography community at McGill, through her activities on the Geography Graduate Society committees and executive, through her participation in a departmental mentoring program, and as an invaluable member of the CCARG. Since finishing her thesis, Michelle has remained as part of the CCARG as an R.A, and has also taken on a position at McGill University as the Department of Geography’s Undergraduate Program Advisor as of June 2014. All of us at the CCARG wish her the very best in this role!

Michelle Maillet presents M.A. thesis work at IHACC Peru workshop

2014 September 17

On September 9th, IHACC Peru held a one day workshop in advance of the UNFCCC’s COP20 in Lima with a partnering organization of the project, AIDESEP (Inter-ethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Rainforest ( Michelle was invited to present her M.A. thesis work to the group via Skype during this workshop, and was assisted by Jahir Anicama Diaz and Cecilia Larrea, who translated the presentation to Spanish and served as intermediaries.

Click here to view the presentation slides.

The food security of Inuit women in Arviat, Nunavut: the role of socio-economic factors and climate change

2014 September 10

Maude C. Beaumier, James D. Ford, and Shirley Tagalik. Polar Record. Find PDF here.


Climate change has been identified as compromising food security in many case studies with Inuit communities in Canada. Largely neglected in the scholarship however, is research focusing on the gendered dimensions of Inuit food security in a changing climate. This paper reports on a community based participatory research project involving semi-structured interviews with Inuit women (n = 42), 10 focus groups (n = 40), key informant interviews (n = 8), and participant observation, to identify and characterize the determinants of food security among Inuit females in the community of Arviat, and examine the role played by climate and climate change. Results indicate that significant changes in climate being observed are not currently affecting female food security, with socio-economic-cultural factors primary determinants of food security. The nature of the traditional food system in Arviat based on harvesting land mammals reduces sensitivity to changing sea ice conditions which have been problematic in other Inuit communities. However, dependence on a limited number of animals for diet (primarily caribou, arctic char) increases sensitivity to potential future disruptions caused by climate change to these species and reduces response diversity as a coping mechanism.

Adaptation to climate change in glaciated mountain regions

2014 August 14

Graham McDowell, Eleanor Stephenson, James Ford. Climatic Change. Find PDF here.


Understanding of the human dimensions of climate change (HDCC) in glaciated mountain regions is limited by a deficit in systematically collated information on where, to what stressors, by whom, at what scale, and with what effect adaptation is occurring. This paper presents a systematic literature review of the recent English language peer-reviewed scholarship on adaptation in glaciated mountain regions. 4050 potentially relevant articles were examined, with 36 included for full review. Results indicate that scholarly investigation into adaptation in glaciated mountains is presently limited to only 40 % of countries with alpine glaciation. Seventy-four discrete adaptation initiatives were identified, with most occurring in Peru (28 %), Nepal (22 %) and India (17 %). Many documented adaptations were initiated in response to intersecting stressors related to cryospheric change and socio-economic development; were autonomous and initiated in reaction to experienced climatic stimuli; and were carried out at the individual, family, or community scale. The study contributes to an emerging literature tracking on-the-ground adaptation processes and outcomes, and identifies a need to raise the profile of human adaptation in glaciated mountain regions within the HDCC scholarship. A research agenda for addressing key knowledge gaps and questions is developed, providing a framework for future investigation.