Vulnerability and Adaptation to Climate Extremes

To date, projections of future climate change have been based on averaged temperatures over decades. But at local and regional levels, climate variability and the occurrence of extreme events affect communities the most. There is a lack of knowledge on how climate change is affecting climate variability and extreme events in rural areas of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, and the Canadian prairies.

There is also limited understanding of the risks faced by rural communities to climate change and how they are adapting. Analyzing current vulnerabilities in the context of projected shifts in climate variability and extreme events will produce insights into future risks and opportunities, and inform the adoption of appropriate local practices and government policies.

The research

Agricultural communities in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, and the Canadian prairies are particularly vulnerable to climate extremes such as droughts. The research team is focusing on poor, rural populations whose livelihoods are climate-sensitive. The project’s objective is to improve the understanding of the vulnerability of rural agricultural communities to shifts in climate variability and to extreme climate events, and to engage governments in enhancing adaptive capacity.

The specific objectives of the project are to:

  • advance understanding of regional hydroclimatic variability and extreme events;
  • deepen understanding of past, current, and future vulnerabilities of rural agricultural and indigenous populations to climate hazards and related stressors;
  • determine the impacts of climate variability and extremes on agricultural productivity and environmental services that support these  communities;
  • evaluate and communicate adaptive management practices and governance policies that reduce climate-related risk;
  • develop and implement a unified methodology to evaluate adaptation options for reducing vulnerability;
  • promote sharing of knowledge, resources, and expertise among research and collaborating organizations and public agencies to inform policies and programs for reduced vulnerability and enhanced adaptive capacity;
  • increase the capacity of research organizations and researchers for comparative and collaborative interdisciplinary research; and
  • enhance young researchers’ expertise and skills in the interdisciplinary study of global environmental change.

Expected outcomes

The project aims to:

  • shape policy and inform practice on local and regional levels to enhance adaptive capacities of rural communities;
  • improve understanding of the adaptation of natural and social systems to climate change;
  • train young researchers and students in the field of adaptation to climate change;
  • inform different audiences through appropriate means (e.g. stakeholders through newsletters, workshops and training; the research community through academic publications and conference presentations; the public through a project website and local media);
  • and train technical staff, government officials, civil society organisations’ staff, as well as university professors in environmental programs through distance education.


Project ID


Project status


Start Date

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

End Date

Tuesday, March 1, 2016


60 months

IDRC Officer

David O'Brien

Total funding

CA$ 2,500,000


North and Central America, South America, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Canada


International Research Initiative on Adaptation to Climate Change

Project Leader

Fernando Santibañez


University of Chile

Institution Country


Institution Website

Project Leader

David J. Sauchyn


University of Regina

Institution Country


Institution Website