Researchers Examine Human Impact On Climate Change In Africa

8 Mar 2019 by OOSKAnews Correspondent
CAPE TOWN, South Africa

The BNP Paribas Foundation, under its Climate Initiative program, is funding new research at the University of Cape Town (UCT) to examine the human impact on global warming in the global South.

The international, multidisciplinary team from UCT, Oxford University, and the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory is working with experts and reseachers from Benin, Nigeria, Liberia and Kenya.

“This is cutting-edge science led by African researchers, for African application,” co-lead author Mark New of UCT has said, adding that the research is specifically examining weather extremes that lead to water-related risks, initially focusing on drought. He is also director of the African Climate and Development Initiative (ACDI) that is at the core of this new attribution science research. Attribution science research plays an important role in informing the planning of water management systems within regional conditions that increase the risk of failing water resource systems.

Until now, most of the studies of how human influence on the global climate system have examined locations north of the equator. This is the first study to assess extreme weather events in Africa.

With the experience of 2018's very severe drought in Cape Town underscoring the region’s susceptibility to the effects of climate change, the team will analyze societal impacts and try to determine how much is due to site-specific vulnerabilities.

The research underlines how the frequency of a drought of this extent has changed over time because of human influence on climate. Such a drought, which saw Cape Town’s taps almost run dry, can now to be expected once every 15 years – rather than every 50 years as previously assumed.

The team will develop sophisticated models to detail the evolution of climate change in recent decades.

“These models allow us to simulate a world with and without human-driven climate change. We can then compare weather events of interest between these modelled worlds,” New explained. The results will enable an understanding of how changing weather risk converts into impacts on the ground and will inform what on-the-ground responses ought to be.

Crucially, the research will be able to inform investment decisions “in adaptation and risk reduction, support new climate finance mechanisms and insurance instruments, and help African countries benefit from global financial flows and investment in low-carbon, climate-resilient development”, according to UCT.

“Along with higher temperature levels and more evaporation, the implications of drought and climate change for river flows and long-term assurance of water supply are potentially serious,” New warned. And the risk of similar events will increase with further global warming.

“Both the frequency and severity of climate-induced disasters are changing, often for the worse. Given that both the severity and the likelihood of extreme events are changing, our systems need to be designed to ensure reliability.”

The ACDI researchers are also considering adaptation and management responses to changes in climate risk in the region, including catchment restoration, securing the ecological infrastructure, and ecosystem-based adaptation.

“We hope this work will deliver real-world examples of the [potential] return on investment in adaptation interventions (aimed at reducing) loss and damage caused by climate change in Africa,” New said.