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CIESIN to Lead Interdisciplinary Team Investigating Drivers of Migration

April 14, 2022

CIESIN will lead one of 17 university-based faculty teams to receive a highly competitive grant from the US Department of Defense FY2021 Minerva Research Initiative to support research in social and behavioral science. A multi-institution, interdisciplinary team headed by principal investigator (PI) Alex de Sherbinin, CIESIN senior research scientist and associate director for Science Applications, will conduct the three-year study comparing underlying drivers of international migration flows from Central America and West Africa to the US and Europe, respectively. Increased understanding of these dynamics will make a critical contribution to improved policy responses to the humanitarian and security challenges posed by migration crises. The team will use innovative methodologies to answer two questions: one, to what degree do climate factors contribute to migration flows, versus individual, structural, and governance factors? And two, how may such flows change in response to combined changes in social, political, economic and climate factors? The research team is formed across the Columbia Climate School entities CIESIN, the Center for Climate Systems Research (CCSR), Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI), and Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, and includes scientists at Oregon State University (OSU). Co-principal investigators (co-PIs) include CCSR’s Michael J. Puma and OSU’s David Wrathall. Additional senior personnel from the Columbia Climate School include CIESIN research scientist Susana Adamo (demography), IRI associate research scientist Ángel Muñoz (climate science, predictive models), Lamont Research Professor Richard Seager (climate science); and two postdoctoral scientists, Fabien Cottier (political science) and Cascade Tuholske (geography), and a research associate, Carmen González Romero (political science/law).

See: Project description: “South-North Migration in Central America and West Africa”
       Press release

Environmental Justice Roundup: SEDAC Data Helps Advance Social Equity

March 13, 2022

Left map: Racial make-up of the Greater Houston Metropolitan Area. Right map: Block group level Flood Vulnerability Index created by SEDAC and IRI.

Climate change disproportionately affects the poor and socially vulnerable. The scientific community is responding in its commitment to data and services development that can advance environmental justice. A recent NASA Earthdata Backgrounder profiles some of the work the NASA Socioeconomic Data and Application Center (SEDAC) is doing in this area.

The backgrounder describes a research project focused on the low-wealth, predominately Black community of the Hampton Roads region of Norfolk, VA, which is experiencing rising sea level rise in part because the land area is sinking. SEDAC population data was paired with satellite data to reveal high population density combined with anomalously high sea surface height in this area, identifying high vulnerability. Integrating different types of data in this way lets planners and policymakers make better-informed mitigation decisions that take into consideration social as well as physical impacts of sea-level rise, better insuring environmental justice for vulnerable communities.

In a second example, in collaboration with the International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI), SEDAC helped develop an index that assesses flood vulnerability for Harris County, Texas. Taking a multidisciplinary approach to capturing resilience and susceptibility to flooding, 15 indicators were combined into an aggregate index. The tool can visualize flood vulnerability at the block group level for Harris County and analyze relative flood vulnerability across the region, improving prioritization of flood remediation policies and aid.

CIESIN director Robert Chen, with associate director for Science Applications Alex de Sherbinin and research scientist Susana Adamo, helped organize and co-lead a NASA Equity and Environmental Justice virtual workshop, in their respective SEDAC roles as manager, deputy manager, and project scientist. The workshop report was released in December 2021.