Climate change is affecting South Asia – home to two billion people – in devastating ways. Adverse impacts disproportionately fall on poor households, which account for the vast majority of those affected in the region, and manifest in a variety of intersecting ways, including loss of wages, deteriorating health, increasingly inadequate shelter, loss of protection mechanisms for women, girls, and the disabled, gravely impaired food security, and obliteration of savings. Extreme weather events in the short terms and drought, floods and rainfalls on longer time horizons will make it hard for millions to continue to live where they are, forcing many to adapt to their changing environs, or move. Such migration must be anticipated and planned for, in the absence of which millions of lives and livelihoods will be at stake.

This interdisciplinary project, supported by the Salata Institute for Climate and Sustainability at Harvard University, seeks to advance climate adaptation research and implementation at the household, community, state and federal levels in South Asia, particularly in the context of climate-driven migration. The project team will work closely with our partners to identify, co-create, test, and bring to scale climate adaptation strategies including technological, health, financial, policy and educational interventions that anticipating, mitigate or support migration when livelihoods and habitats are impacted by droughts, floods and sea-level rise. Such interventions may range from habitat modifications, to community-led surveillance for infectious diseases, to expanding insurance to include extreme weather events, to local, regional, and national plans for responding to climate change induced disruptions across timescales.

A regional training workshop hosted by ICIMOD Kathmandu aims to strengthen reporting on adaptation to climate change for relevant policy approaches.
Image: International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), Kathmandu, Nepal

In this work, the team is collaborating with in-region partners to ensure that local concerns inform a collaborative process of goal setting and developing a shared scientific vision. Partners include international agencies; nodal governmental agencies; leading policy research institutes; social entrepreneurs; BRAC, the world’s largest non-governmental organization; and the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), the world’s largest trade union of women workers in the informal sector. These partnerships ensure that adaptation planning is driven by the voices and concerns of the region’s vast labor force that primarily works in the informal economy as daily wage earners, farmhands, street vendors, constructions workers and more.

Faculty Leads

  • Caroline Buckee, Professor of Epidemiology, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (Principal Investigator)
  • Satchit Balsari, Assistant Professor in Emergency Medicine, Harvard Medical School (Co-Investigator)
  • Tarun Khanna, Jorge Paulo Lemann Professor, Harvard Business School; Director, Lakshmi Mittal and Family South Asia Institute, Harvard University (Co-Investigator)
  • Daniel P. Schrag, Sturgis Hooper Professor of Geology, Professor of Environmental Science and Engineering, Professor of Public Policy, Director of the Harvard University Center for the Environment, Director of the Science Technology, and Public Policy Program, HKS (Co-Investigator)
  • Peter John Huybers, Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences, Professor of Environmental Science and Engineering, Faculty of Arts and Sciences (Co-Investigator)
  • Jennifer Leaning, Senior Research Fellow, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (Co-Investigator)

Harvard University Collaborators

  • Hélène Benveniste, French Environmental Fellow 2021-2023, Harvard University Center for the Environment
  • P. Gregg Greenough, Co-Director, Humanitarian Geoanalytics Research and Education Programs, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
  • Emmanuel Akyeampong, Ellen Gurney Professor of History and Professor of African and African American Studies, Faculty of Arts and Sciences
  • Lucas Vargas Zeppetello, Environmental Fellow: 2022-2024

External Collaborators

  • Solomon Hsiang, Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy, The Goldman School of Public Policy, Berkley University
  • Sabina Faiz Rashid, Professor and Appointed Dean, James P Grant School of Public Health, Brac University
  • Mihir Bhatt, Founder and Director, All India Disaster Mitigation Institute (AIDMI)
  • Bhargav Krishna, Fellow at the Centre for Policy Research
  • Akshay Jaitly, Founder, TrustBridge; Partner, Trilegal

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