Climate change, population, and poverty: vulnerability
and exposure to heat stress in countries
bordering the Great Lakes of Africa
Karen L Vandecar
Received: 21 November 2017 / Accepted: 21 April 2018 / Published online: 4 May 2018
Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018
Abstract Global climate models predict increases in the frequency and intensity of
extreme heat events across the African continent during the remainder of the twenty-first
century. Projected increases in temperature extremes have significant implications for
humanity, particularly in the African Great Lakes region (GLR) where some of the world’s
poorest and most vulnerable populations reside. Using high-resolution Community Earth
System Model (CESM) simulations to investigate the impacts of climate change under
Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) 8.5 and spatially explicit population trajec-
tories consistent with two shared socio-economic pathways (SSPs), we contrast early and
projected late century human exposure to temperature extremes and the associated poten-
tial health impacts for nine countries of the GLR. While all countries are projected to
experience increases in the number of heat stress days, the greatest increases occur in the
north and west, in parts of Kenya, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Nighttime relief diminishes due to 3–8° increases in average minimum temperatures.
Country-wide population exposure to extreme heat stress increases 7- to 269-fold over
current levels. Total population growth as well as rural-urban distribution patterns strongly
influence outcomes, but to a lesser degree than the warming climate.
Climatic Change (2018) 148:561–573
Electronic supplementary material The online version of this article (https://doi.org/10.1007
/s10584-018-2211-5) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
* Deborah Lawrence
University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, USA
National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, CO, USA
Appalachian State University, Boone, NC, USA