While Africa is one of the continents most affected by climate change, the impact of changing weather patterns on the continent remains largely unresearched and poorly understood. However, a new report [PDF] from Future Climate for Africa (FCFA) could help decision-makers get reliable scientific information that will be used to aid planning and mitigation measures for some of the worst affected countries.

The FCFA report, Africa’s Climate: Helping Decision-Makers Make Sense Of Climate Information, carries new data that is useful for decision-making in the face of the development challenges that climate change presents, especially for the millions of Africans affected by changing weather patterns.

Julio Araujo, an FCFA research officer based in South Africa, says that the amount of scientific literature on climate change in Africa is worryingly low.

Working with decision-makers to produce appropriate information that is usable will lead towards positive changes in the policies and investments. Julio Araujo, Future Climate for Africa (FCFA)

The FCFA, a five-year, £20 million (US$25 million) programme with funding from the UK Department for International Development and the UK’s Natural Environment Resource Council, began in 2014 and has groups of researchers creating climate change data to aid policymaking in Africa.

“Climate modelling indicates that East Africa is expected to warm in the next five to 40 years", A statement released by the FCFA on the report in November says, adding, "Although changes in rainfall are much less certain, extreme events such as floods and droughts could increase in the future."
However, the lack of up-to-date scientific data has left the impact of climate change in the region severely understudied.   
According to the report, Southern African economies are exposed to weather and climate vulnerabilities, and sectors such as agriculture, energy, and water management are most affected.

Essential resources, therefore, are at great risk but most government departments still depend on planning based on three-to-five-year time horizons, ignoring that climate projections are based on decades-long timeframes.
The report explains that past data being applied by ministries could be inaccurate because of wrong assumptions, noting that climate change could negatively impact African economies, especially in the future if it is not addressed.
The report  has 15 factsheets covering specific regions including East Africa, Southern Africa, Central Africa and West Africa and six countries — Malawi, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.
“In order to effectively influence relevant policies in a country or region, you will need to engage with the relevant decision makers at that scale,” Araujo adds. “Working with decision-makers to produce appropriate information that is usable will lead towards positive changes in the policies and investments, which will in turn benefit the smallholder farmers who are adversely impacted by climate change.”
Daniel Olago, an environmental geoscientist at the Institute for Climate Change and Adaptation, University of Nairobi, concurs and attributes low research on Africa’s climate change to challenges such as widely spaced weather stations and missing data, few meteorological scientists in research and a more "chaotic" climate system.

According to Olago, there is a need for reliable scientific information about the continent’s changing climate because sectors such as agriculture and pastoral livestock depend largely on rainfall and support the livelihoods of many people.

“The changing climate is resulting in changes in the timing, distribution, intensity, and amounts of rainfall during the seasons relied upon for planting or natural replenishment of pasture,” he adds.
This has resulted in major crop and livestock losses, depressed and variable productivity, with concomitant adverse impacts on people’s livelihoods and well-being, Olago says in conclusion.
This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Sub-Saharan Africa English desk. Read the original article here.

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