Climatic Change

, Volume 124, Issue 4, pp 717–731 | Cite as

Identifying hot spots of security vulnerability associated with climate change in Africa

  • Joshua W. BusbyEmail author
  • Kerry H. Cook
  • Edward K. Vizy
  • Todd G. Smith
  • Mesfin Bekalo


Given its high dependence on rainfed agriculture and its comparatively low adaptive capacity, Africa is frequently invoked as especially vulnerable to climate change. Within Africa, there is likely to be considerable variation in vulnerability to climate change both between and within countries. This paper seeks to advance the agenda of identifying the hot spots of what we term “climate security” vulnerability, areas where the confluence of vulnerabilities could put large numbers of people at risk of death from climate-related hazards. This article blends the expertise of social scientists and climate scientists. It builds on a model of composite vulnerability that incorporates four “baskets” or processes that are thought to contribute to vulnerability including: (1) physical exposure, (2) population density, (3) household and community resilience, and (4) governance and political violence. Whereas previous iterations of the model relied on historical physical exposure data of natural hazards, this paper uses results from regional model simulations of African climate in the late 20th century and mid-21st century to develop measures of extreme weather events—dry days, heat wave events, and heavy rainfall days—coupled with an indicator of low-lying coastal elevation. For the late 20th century, this mapping process reveals the most vulnerable areas are concentrated in Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Niger, Somalia, Sudan, and South Sudan, with pockets in Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Guinea, Mauritania, and Sierra Leone. The mid 21st century projection shows more extensive vulnerability throughout the Sahel, including Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, northern Nigeria, Niger, and across Sudan.


Regional Climate Model Late 20th Century Extreme Weather Event Political Violence Community Resilience 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This material is based upon work supported by, or in part by, the U.S. Army Research Office contract/grant number W911NF-09-1-007 under the Minerva Initiative of the U.S. Department of Defense. We also acknowledge the AOGCM modeling groups, the Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison (PCMDI) and the WCRP’s Working Group on Coupled Modelling (WGCM) for their roles in making available the WCRP CMIP3 and CMIP5 multi-model dataset. Support of this dataset is provided by the Office of Science, U.S. Department of Energy. We thank Kaiba White for her contributions to the development of the maps in earlier iterations.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Joshua W. Busby
    • 1
    Email author
  • Kerry H. Cook
    • 2
  • Edward K. Vizy
    • 2
  • Todd G. Smith
    • 1
  • Mesfin Bekalo
    • 1
  1. 1.LBJ School of Public AffairsUniversity of Texas-AustinAustinUSA
  2. 2.Jackson School of GeosciencesUniversity of Texas-AustinAustinUSA

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