Articles | Volume 5, issue 2
Research article
22 Oct 2014
Research article |  | 22 Oct 2014

Climate impacts on human livelihoods: where uncertainty matters in projections of water availability

T. K. Lissner, D. E. Reusser, J. Schewe, T. Lakes, and J. P. Kropp

Abstract. Climate change will have adverse impacts on many different sectors of society, with manifold consequences for human livelihoods and well-being. However, a systematic method to quantify human well-being and livelihoods across sectors is so far unavailable, making it difficult to determine the extent of such impacts. Climate impact analyses are often limited to individual sectors (e.g. food or water) and employ sector-specific target measures, while systematic linkages to general livelihood conditions remain unexplored. Further, recent multi-model assessments have shown that uncertainties in projections of climate impacts deriving from climate and impact models, as well as greenhouse gas scenarios, are substantial, posing an additional challenge in linking climate impacts with livelihood conditions. This article first presents a methodology to consistently measure what is referred to here as AHEAD (Adequate Human livelihood conditions for wEll-being And Development). Based on a trans-disciplinary sample of concepts addressing human well-being and livelihoods, the approach measures the adequacy of conditions of 16 elements. We implement the method at global scale, using results from the Inter-Sectoral Impact Model Intercomparison Project (ISI-MIP) to show how changes in water availability affect the fulfilment of AHEAD at national resolution. In addition, AHEAD allows for the uncertainty of climate and impact model projections to be identified and differentiated. We show how the approach can help to put the substantial inter-model spread into the context of country-specific livelihood conditions by differentiating where the uncertainty about water scarcity is relevant with regard to livelihood conditions – and where it is not. The results indicate that livelihood conditions are compromised by water scarcity in 34 countries. However, more often, AHEAD fulfilment is limited through other elements. The analysis shows that the water-specific uncertainty ranges of the model output are outside relevant thresholds for AHEAD for 65 out of 111 countries, and therefore do not contribute to the overall uncertainty about climate change impacts on livelihoods. In 46 of the countries in the analysis, water-specific uncertainty is relevant to AHEAD. The AHEAD method presented here, together with first results, forms an important step towards making scientific results more applicable for policy decisions.

Short summary
Climate change will have impacts on many different sectors of society, but a systematic method to quantify human well-being and livelihoods across sectors is so far unavailable. This paper presents the AHEAD approach, which allows for relating impacts of climate change to 16 dimensions of livelihoods and well-being. Using the example of changes in water availability, the results show how climate change impacts AHEAD. The approach also provides a tool to frame uncertainties from climate models.
Final-revised paper