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Education is key to climate adaptation

04/12/2014

A new study conducted by WU researchers has shown that education makes people less vulnerable to natural disasters resulting from climate change, such as floods, mudslides, and storms. The paper has been published in the leading scientific journal Science.

A new study conducted by WU researchers has shown that education makes people less vulnerable to natural disasters resulting from climate change, such as floods, mudslides, and storms. The paper has been published in the leading scientific journal Science.

According to recent studies conducted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), climate change is no longer avoidable. Currently, efforts for coping with the consequences of climatic changes have focused mainly on construction and engineering measures. The authors of this new study, however, have identified education as an important tool in dealing with natural disasters.

Education as the better investment

Together with co-author Raya Muttarak (ÖAW/IIASA) the two WU-affiliated researchers Erich Striessnig and Wolfgang Lutz, WU professor and Director of the Wittgenstein Centre for Demography and Global Human Capital, analyzed 40 years’ worth of data from natural disasters in 167 countries. The research shows that in many cases, education could be a better investment in protecting people from the impacts of natural catastrophes than conventional investments such as building sea walls or dams.

Coping with the impacts of natural disasters

“Education is key in reducing disaster fatalities and enhancing adaptive capacity,” says Wolfgang Lutz. “Our research shows that education is more important than GDP in reducing mortality from natural disasters. We also demonstrated that under rapid development and educational expansion across the globe, disaster fatalities will be reduced substantially,” adds Muttarak. According to co-author Erich Striessnig, “Investment in human capital not only empowers people to achieve desirable socioeconomic outcomes, but it also has a protective function against diverse impacts climate change may have over the coming decades”.

Rethinking funding

With 100 billion dollars currently pledged for climate funding through the Green Climate Fund, the researchers say it is vital to examine where the money would have the greatest impact. Striessnig says, “We need to think about how to best allocate the funds raised for the adaptation to future climate change. Currently many of these funds are destined to support less flexible engineering projects or agricultural strategies. Such efforts are also vitally important, but in light of the major uncertainties about climate change impacts, it makes sense to invest some of the funds in mechanisms that will empower people to flexibly adapt to whatever changes might occur.”

Contact:
Cornelia Moll
Press relations officer
Tel.: + 43-1-31336-4977
cornelia.moll@wu.ac.at

WU Press Info: Education is key to climate adaptation as PDF

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