NEWS: Better use of long-term climate information could reduce risks for African investments
London and Cape Town, Monday 9 February 2015 – African governments and businesses are putting their investments at risk from the long-term impacts of climate change because they are failing to take climate information into account, says a new report from the Overseas Development Institute and SouthSouthNorth for the Future Climate For Africa (FCFA) programme and Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN), launched today.
African countries are investing in infrastructure and development programmes that will last for decades—and could be deeply affected by climate change from mid-century onwards. Ports, large dams, and social infrastructure such as hospitals and schools built today could last well beyond 2050. By then, Africa’s climate could look quite different than it does now – or has in the last century.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), if the world keeps emitting greenhouse gases at present rates, average temperatures across large swathes of Africa could rise by more than 4°C across by the late 21st century. Even under a low emissions scenario, average temperatures across Africa will continue to rise in the coming decades, putting greater numbers of people and assets in the path of floods, droughts and heatwaves, from mid-century onwards. Governments and businesses have much to gain from using climate information in their long-term plans and investment choices.
The report, Promoting the use of climate information to achieve long-term development objectives in sub-Saharan Africa is based on initial research into the use of long-term (5-40 year) climate information in Malawi, Rwanda, Zambia and the coastal cities of Accra, Ghana and Maputo, Mozambique. The study also assesses how long-term climate information is being used by planners of large dams and ports in Africa.
The report finds that governments and businesses are failing to consider long-term climate information in investment planning: in most of the case study countries, not a single example of climate information being effectively taken up into long-term decision making was found. As a consequence, new infrastructure and programmes may be highly vulnerable to future climate impacts.
Lindsey Jones, a Research Fellow at Overseas Development Institute and author of the study, said: “Understandably, African decision-makers are overwhelmed by a large number of immediate, short-term development needs and this can eclipse longer-term concerns. However, even some short-term interventions today, like designing healthcare systems, could have consequences far in the future. Climate information – especially when it’s linked with tools for economic analysis – can guide decision-makers towards modest changes in design, to make programmes more climate resilient. Doing so requires a step change in the way we currently conduct and communicate climate science.”
Sam Bickersteth, CDKN’s Chief Executive, said: “The IPCC’s Fifth Assessment has indicated that climate change will have substantial impacts on Africa. With so much infrastructure yet to be built to meet African countries’ development needs, there is an opportunity to apply science more fully to the policy and planning processes. This report shows some of the constraints as well as the opportunities to communicate science to meet the particular needs of decision-makers.”
“The study showed a clear gap in the information marketplace” said Stefan Raubenheimer, Director of SouthSouthNorth.” Producers of climate information normally communicate in a way that is too technical and is ill-matched to decision maker’s needs – and they don’t do a good job of explaining the limits of climate information. There are too few organisations and individuals to translate climate information into a language that makes sense to decision-makers, so that they can weigh up the costs and benefits of acting on it.”
Despite these gaps, the report notes that there are big opportunities for decision-makers, scientists and intermediary organisations such as think tanks to work together more effectively to assess when climate predictions are relevant to decision-making – and what the implications are. Better use of climate predictions in planning could boost the resilience of long-lived development programmes to Africa’s future climate.
Download the report Promoting the use of climate information to achieve long-term development objectives in sub-Saharan Africa and associated case studies on: www.cdkn.org/future-climate-africa
Lindsey Jones, ODI/CDKN: +44 (0)20 7922 8226; firstname.lastname@example.org
Mairi Dupar , ODI/CDKN: +44 (0)20 7922 0449; email@example.com
Claire Mathieson and Stefan Raubenheimer, SSN/CDKN: firstname.lastname@example.org
Future Climate for Africa (FCFA) is a new 5-year international research programme jointly funded by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). The Programme will support research to better understand climate variability and change across sub-Saharan Africa. More information is available at www.futureclimateafrica.org
The programme will focus on advancing scientific knowledge, understanding and prediction of African climate variability and change on 5–40-year timescales, together with support for better integration of science into longer-term decision-making. The Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) is responsible for coordinating the FCFA scoping phase – an 18-month exercise using six case studies in sub-Saharan Africa to evaluate the needs of science users in the context of the capabilities and limitations of current science.
The case studies were undertaken by: Kulima Integrated Development Solutions; University of Leeds; Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources. University of Cape Town Climate Systems Analysis Group (CSAG); The global change SysTem for Analysis, Research and Training (START); Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI); Global Climate Adaptation Partnership; HR Wallingford; Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre; UK Met Office Hadley Centre; and Zambia Red Cross Society.
Image: courtesy Carsten Linke, flickr.com