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Adapting to Climate Change


About the Atlas
The Adaptation Atlas is a web-based mapping tool that will bring together the best-available science on climate impacts and up-to-date information on adaptation projects.  We plan to use Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software to create an integrative platform on which multiple communities of users can contribute, layer, and view adaptation science and project information in a qualitycontrolled "wiki" format. The realtime data displayed online would allow scientists, policymakers, and global citizens to visualize what impacts are likely to affect their region(s), what activities are already underway, what gaps exist, and where to act.

The Atlas architecture consists of four key building blocks aligned with the following objectives:
  • Compile the bestavailable natural and social science data on climate impacts
  • Integrate these data with uptodate information and maps of ontheground adaptation projects to highlight "confluences of impact and (in)action" 
  • Build a virtual global community of practice centered on climate change adaptation to support outreach and share best practices
  • Support long-term monitoring and evaluation through the development of a spatial data archive and help set priorities for future adaptation investment
Wireframe Mockup of Atlas Interface
Illustration of Atlas climate impact overlay filters showing options for selecting ‘compatible’ data layers with pop-up highlighting adaptation project/funds location and detail.

Building Block 1
Compiling and Organizing Climate Impact Science

Scientists around the world are making great strides in creating finegrained regional and local assessments of climate impacts; however, these data remain largely fragmented across research disciplines and fundamentally disconnected from the scales at which adaptation policies and decision are made. To consolidate the enormous amount of natural and social science data on climate change impacts in a format relevant for decisionmaking, we plan to focus on five main themes: food, water, land, health, and livelihood. These themes serve as an organizing framework for research on the natural and human systems effects of climate change and for planned adaptation strategies to manage impacts.

The first phase of developing the Atlas will involve compiling data on human impacts for various climate scenarios and layering this impact data using GIS. We have already initiated partnerships with several key data centers and clearinghouses around the world to use their databases of climate impact data and streamline conversion of the data into compatible map layers. The aim is to create the outline for a mosaic of the bestavailable climate model projections, which can evolve as impact science and local observations improve.

The focus of this building block will be on establishing a structure to help users make robust and transparent decisions about overlaying various climate impacts at different scales and for different parts of the world in order to avoid missing or doublecounting specific impacts across sectors. The Atlas prototype developed using existing data will then serve as the basis for an upload “wiki” feature for input of new impact data from the wider science community and a mechanism for coordination of new research.

Building Block 2
Mapping On-the-Ground Adaptation Projects

In addition to mapping climate impacts, it is essential to gather data on adaptation activities intended to manage and reduce impacts at various scales. The second building block centers on automating the process of mapping adaptation projects and activities around the world using an online survey mechanism. Project information will be identified using an automated search and filtering application, paired with carefully designed and deployed online survey inviting development practitioners, donors, and program managers to enter, update, and/or validate descriptive information about adaptation projects in the Atlas (sector, size, location, population served, funding source, timeline, etc.). The resulting entries, which form a searchable database of adaptation activities over time, can then be overlaid on climate impacts maps to identify “hotspots of impact and (in)action.”

We plan to begin by building on collaborations with various development, humanitarian, and environmental aid organizations to create a catalog of climate-relevant projects funded to date around the world. Using these data as a proxy and baseline for future adaptation funding and project data, we envision creating a framework for automating the collection of thousands of adaptation projects. The resulting dynamic online map(s) of points and areas plotted alongside one another across the world will allow users to see gaps and overlaps in the types, sizes, and locations of adaptation projects relative to key climate impacts.

As adaptation activities proliferate and cover everwider sets of activities–including basic research, capacity building, development planning, retrofitting infrastructure, and designing new insurance mechanisms–tracking and updating adaptation records will become increasingly challenging. Through an automated approach, we hope to overcome the hurdle of conducting repeated and fragmented paper surveys and assessments. The power of the Atlas will derive from the spatial integration of existing and emerging repositories of adaptation projects around the globe. The resulting data can be filtered and sorted to analyze patterns of adaptation investment over time and evaluate the relationships of these patterns to corresponding climate impacts. In the future, we plan to incorporate the project databases of major institutions, such as the UN Adaptation Fund, the World Bank Development Marketplace, and the Global Environment Facility.

Building Block 3
Creating a Tailored Outreach Vehicle

The process of conducting online searches and surveys to collect information about adaptation activities opens the door to the third component of the Atlas: outreach and dissemination. A major feature of the Atlas will be tailored user feedback. By tracking Atlas entries and user searches, we plan to develop a third “recommendation engine” style application to manage user profiles and provide tailored feedback on local, regional, and global bestpractices for types and sizes of projects corresponding to user interests. A user who enters information or searches for projects on micro-insurance programs for small farmers in Mali would be able to view collections of information on projects in the same sector and/or coverage area in Mali, projects in different sectors (water, health, etc.) across West Africa, and projects of similar type and size across the world.  
This structured and tailored approach will also include a rating feature, where practitioners and users can rate projects already in the Atlas to create a record of best practices and lessons offered. Because adaptation is both a process and an outcome, capacity building is an essential component of successful adaptation over time. This approach to outreach and education can help build awareness and shape and motivate additional adaptation measures. Further, this type of knowledge is an essential element of scalingup best practices under different contexts, governance structures, and institutions.

Building Block 4
Sustaining Long-term Monitoring and Evaluation

The goal of the final component of the Atlas is to establish a robust platform for monitoring and evaluation. By creating a spatial data archive, the Atlas will support new research and analysis on where around the world data on climate impacts is inadequate, policy action is lacking across regions and sectors, and adaptationrelated decisions and activities have the potential to duplicate or negate one another in the absence of coordination.

Because this tool (and all userreleased data) will be publicly available, this archive also has the potential to support monitoring and assessment activities for local adaptation projects and policies. In addition, the database can be used to help donor alignment and track largescale adaptation funds controlled by international agencies, national governments, and philanthropic organizations in concert with one another. Monitoring, assessment, and evaluation are critical challenges when it comes to adaptation. The eventual goal of any adaptation effort is to prevent adverse impacts from climate change. As a result, defining and measuring success will depend on having a clear baseline to be able to effectively evaluate progress and delays.

Continue to Timeline/Implementation


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