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University’s global health experts look how the complexities of climate change impact on fragile states

Posted: 2nd November 2021

A Scottish university has connected global researchers and policy makers to look at the impact of climate change on countries already considered to be fragile for other reasons.

The effects of climate change are being felt in every corner of the world, but are particularly challenging to deal with in nations experiencing political and economic insecurity. In Lebanon, for example, hosting over a million refugees and political instability as a result of the Syria conflict makes addressing increasing water shortages even more difficult to address. In Mozambique, dealing with conflict in the north further strains the ability of the health system to meet the needs of populations frequently cut off from support by flooding.. A clearer understanding of the ways these challenges link together  in fragile states is vital if governments and the international community are to find practical solutions to adapting to climate change in these settings.

In response, global health researchers from Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh have drawn on the local knowledge of partners in Lebanon, Mozambique, Georgia and Costa Rica to map out the range of interrelated factors which affect the way climate change is impacting people’s helath and wellbeing.

Professor Alastair Ager, Director of the Institute for Global Health and Development at Queen Margaret University, explained: “We often associate the fight against climate change with the headline grabbing issues such as how we reduce carbon emissions in a targeted time frame or how we prevent further climate change. This work is important. But we need to give equal attention to a country’s ability to adapt to changes that are already upon us. The 1.5 degrees increase in temperature ‘baked in’ to the system already brings risks of more intense and frequent flooding, poorer air quality, heatwaves, increases in crop damaging pests and insects that spread disease. States that are already fragile due to political, economic or social factors face major challenges in addressing the impact of these risks on human health, food production and livelihoods.

“CoP26 will look at two main areas of dealing with climate change – how we ‘mitigate’ the effects of climate change by the reduction of carbon use to prevent further warming of the planet, and understanding how countries can ‘adapt’ to address existing risks. Our work aims to encourage researchers from across a range of disciplines to come together to address this second, previously neglected, area.”

Professor Alastair Ager noted: “Along with our international partners our research aims to increase understanding by using a method called system dynamics modelling to identify the complexities of adapting to climate change in fragile settings. We have focused specifically on Lebanon, Mozambique, Georgia and Costa Rica, but aim to identify lessons of wider relevance. It is anticipated that with this in-country research knowledge we will help identify interventions which will build resilience and assist in protecting the health and wellbeing of people living in these countries.”

Professor Ager concluded: “We are excited to utilise our years of research experience of working in fragile states, and with in-country partners, to help increase our understanding of the complexities and challenges facing certain countries in the fight against climate change. Our aim is that this new approach to researching in this area will strengthen the global collaboration in addressing the climate change emergency.”

The work is led by Queen Margaret University and colleagues from the Global Health Academy of the University of Edinburgh. The team will present findings at a global webinar – featuring case studies from each country – on Tuesday 2nd November 2021 at 3.00pm – timed to coincide with world leader deliberations on the climate crisis at  CoP26

Funding for this research has been provided by RSE COP26 Climate Change Network grants

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