African Science Academies Statement on Climate Change


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LAGOS, Nigeria – Fifteen science academies of Africa issued a joint statement in Lagos, Nigeria, today calling on the African scientific community to intensify its study of the impact of climate change. Noting that Africa's contribution of scientific information to understanding climate change has been "meagre" to date, the statement calls for African researchers to step up their observation, modeling, and analyses of the effects of climate change on a regional scale, and to help plan interventions to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change on the continent. The statement was presented at the eighth annual conference of African Science Academies in cooperation with the African Science Academy Development Initiative (ASADI). The initiative, supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is a partnership between the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and several African science academies to strengthen their capacity to provide evidence-based advice to inform policymaking and public discourse. Read the full statement at

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African Science Academies Statement on Climate Change

  1. 1. t We, the Science Academies in Africa , issue this statement to draw attention to the special features of Africa in relation to climate change, the great uncertainties that exist in understanding how climate change impacts on Africas climatic, natural and human systems, and the contributions that the scientific community can make in addressing the challenge and exploiting opportunities arising from climate change. We focus especially on impacts on the livelihoods of communities, as they relate to agriculture, food security and health, as well as on developing the capacity for mitigating these impacts and the increasing frequency and intensity of climate change-related disasters in A/rica. BACKGROUND AND URGENCY The rea lization t hat cl imat e change will accumu lation of greenhouse gases, THE NIGDw-.1 ACADEH,Y Of SCtfNCf impact more severely on Africa, t han on notably carbon dioxide, methane, most other regions of the world, compels nitrous oxide, human-made CFCs urgent action t o understand the (chlorofluorocarbons) and a few other phenomenon better in relation to the gases, largely emitted into theGhana Academy of Atts and Soences pecul iarities of the Africa region. Such atmosphere by human activity. Africas understanding is a prerequis ite to contribution to these anthropogenic formulating effective responses to reduce em issions that exacerbate global the exposure and the vulnerability of the warming and climate change hi·storically continent to climate change. Science-based is minor (about 3% of total information is critical in generating such anthropogenic emissions) and, because understanding and formulating effective of the continuing low level of industrial responses. A hallmark of science-based activity on the continent as compared information is that it is founded more on with other regions, will continue to be critically analysed evidence t han on minor far into the future. It is only when experience. There is concern that the globa l emission is disaggregated by African continent has been short in specific sources of em ission, that contr i buting such science-based Africas emission from land use change 8 . . . information to the global analysis, debate, and effort to combat climate change. As a consequence, Africa has not effectively goes up to 20% of world emission f rom this source, exceeding that of other regions. In sharp contrast to the low participated in setting the agenda in the level of contribution to causing the global debate, or benefitted adequately problem, Africa will be from avai lable global opportun it ies, for disproport i onately and severely addressing climate change. affected by climate change because it has the least capacity, in terms of Despite a few dissenting voices, there is a adequate information, awareness, strong and growing scientific consensus that preparedness, technology, financial the current cl imate change stems from resources and freedom from other global warming, caused by the stresses, to adapt to the adverse effects
  2. 2. of climate change, putting at great risk the systems - the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone,development efforts of the continent towards the El Nino Southern Oscillation and the Westcombating poverty and meeting aspirations such African Monsoon. Rainfall in the Sahel is alsoas the Millennium Development Goals. affected by changes in Sea Surface Temperatures. But how the global drivers interact and how theySPECIAL FEATURES OF AFRICA IN THE CONTEXT will be affected by climate change are not wellOF CLIMATE CHANGE understood, beyond the certainty that theirWhen dealing with climate change, some features outcomes will work to increase the incidence andseparate Africa from other regions. We focus here severity of the droughts, floods and otheron features that have relevance for scientific extreme weather events they produce2 • The IPCCintervention. First is the large (30.2 million km 2 } further identified shortcomings of models appliedland mass, stretching approximately from to understand the effects of climate change on theLatitude 37° North to Latitude 35°South. The land African climates to include:mass of Africa is greater than the land masses ofthe USA, UK, China, Spain, Germany, France, Italy, • non- inclusion of vegetation and aerosolEastern Europe, India and Japan combined 1 , yet feedbacks;Africa contributes only three percent of the • not taking account of land surfacehuman emissions that accelerate global warming. changes; • poor understanding of the limitations ofGeographic Variability of African Climates empirical downscaling models; andAfricas land mass encompasses sub-tropical and • insufficient information for assessingtropical climatic regions covering a wide variety of possible changes in the spatial distributionclimates that range from the humid tropics to the and frequencies of tropical cycloneshyper-arid Sahara, and include winter rainfall affecting Africa.regions at the northern and southern extremes.The existence of a variety of climates complicates Planning to respond effectively to climate changethe understanding of the climatic effects of requires that present and future climateclimate change in Africa, especially as the various conditions be described as accurately as possible.climates are regulated by different global drivers. Global Climate Models do so reasonably well forWhile the whole of Africa is known to be warming climate conditions at the global scale, but are tooin this century at a rate faster than the global coarse for application at regional or local levels.average, the warming is not uniform in all parts of Therefore, global models must be madethe continent. The Inter-Governmental Panel on applicable, or "downscaled," to describeClimate Change {IPCC} observes that the drier projections of climate conditions at local orsub-tropical regions will be warming faster than regional scales. When local data arethe humid tropics. Effects on rainfall will also be incorporated in the downscaling process,varied, so that some parts of the continent will uncertainties can be greatly minimized. Local databecome drier while others become wetter. Most are also needed to verify or validate downscaledimportant for the role that science is expected to is the existence of great uncertainties about In the shortcomings associated with modelshow climate change will affect the climates of applied for understanding climate change inAfrica, largely because of lack of adequate Africa, as identified by the IPCC, the importanceinformation. of vegetation feedback and land surface changesGlobal Drivers of African Climates is accentuated by the large land mass of theThe climates of Africa are driven by three global continent, over which the predominant
  3. 3. economic activity is agriculture, which, though criteria, such as good forest governance andcritically important for meeting food security effective land use policies, laid down forneeds and contributing to climate change participating in the two mechanisms. Africanmitigation, constantly interferes with vegetation scientists are challenged to raise persuasiveand land cover. Aerosols are also a significant scientific arguments, based on the great diversitycomponent of the African atmosphere given at and complexity of land use systems on theleast the dust storms that prevail over the Sahara continent, to modify these criteria to permitdesert, while the insufficiency of information for greater participation of Africa in these and otherunderstanding downscaling limitations and the UNFCCCfinancial instruments.behaviour of tropical cyclones is a matter that canbe addressed by intensifying local observations. Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security Next to land mass as a special feature is the heavyIt is emphasized that understanding the effects of dependence of the African economy on climate.climate change on the climates across Africa is Agriculture is the dominant economic activityfundamental for effective planning and design of employing more than 60% of the people andresponses to those effects. accounting for up to 50% of the GDP in someAdvantage from large land mass countries. 2 Most of the agriculture, both crop andThe significance of Africas large land mass spills livestock, is strongly weather- and climate-over to the consideration of Africas potential role dependent and crop farming is dominated byin combating climate change through small-scale subsistence farmers, augmentingafforestation and reforestation (A/R), and their livelihoods by drawing from their naturalthrough agriculture. Forests serve as sinks and resource base. Both agriculture and the naturalreservoirs for the dominant greenhouse gas, resource base are highly susceptible to changes incarbon dioxide. Hence, together with agriculture, temperature, precipitation, sea level rise and thecreating forests through afforestation and incidence of extreme weather events that arereforestation is an activity supported by the Clean associated with climate change. ArtisanalDevelopment Mechanism of the Kyoto Protocol fisheries and aquaculture are also susceptible tofor mitigation of climate change. The abundant rising water temperatures, sea level rise andland mass and large areas of past deforestation, storm surges, while C02 fertilization from risingcoupled with relatively cheap labour, low land carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere mayrents, and faster growth rate of trees that partly offset adverse effects of other factors ontranslates to shorter rotation time for achieving plant production.maximum accumulation of carbon, give Africa adistinct advantage over other key actors in climate Climate change effects on agriculture may bechange mitigation through A/R under the Clean direct or indirect. Direct effects include expectedDevelopment Mechanism. 3 The same factors depression of crop yield and agriculturalcoupled with the strong traditional and cultural productivity by increasing temperature, in thelinkages of people with trees and forests in Africa, African tropics and sub-tropics, where, more thanalso give the continent a distinct advantage in in other regions, crops have reached theirembracing the emerging mechanism of Reducing maximum tolerance limits2 4 • Crop yields declineEmission from Deforestation and forest for any increase in temperature beyond theseDegradation in developing countries (REDD). But limits. Temperature changes also influenceit is stressed that realizing the advantage livestock productivity directly through effects onconferred by the abundant land mass and the balance between body heat production andsupporting factors will depend on Africa meeting heat dissipation, while crop and animal damage
  4. 4. by extreme weather events such as flooding can systems in Africa to combat the effects of climatealso directly depress agricultural production. By change. Science can positively intervene byinterfering with the tim ing of farmers operations, informing the development of resilient cropclimate change-induced unreliability of the varieties and animal breeds, improving theweather also directly affects agricultural management of the resources that serve asproduction. Many effects of climate change on necessary inputs in agriculture and helping toagriculture are indirect and are made manifest install sustainable management regimes forthrough (a) limitations on water availability natural ecosystems. Developing drought-adaptedcaused by protracted reduction in rainfall, crops and animals, flood-tolerant crops, as well asdroughts and temperature-induced high salt-tolerant varieties in the coastal regions;evapotranspiration; (b) temperature-induced designing short-term weather forecastingproliferation of crop and livestock pests, and facilities that can be readily operated by farmers,increase in post-harvest losses in conditions of and refining such forecasts; devising betterunrefrigerated storage; (c) deficits in soil moisture methods of water management and soil nutrientthat translate to diminished soil nutrient supply, conservation; developing safer post-harvestwhich in turn affect plant production, including products storage technologies; researching toproduction of feed and fodder for livestock, and expand the crop base for agriculture; enhancing(d) shortage of farm labour due to depressing efforts at supplementing agricultural productioneffects of climate change on human health. and exploitation from the wild with domesticated production, and developing sustainable methodsThe high dependence of the rural poor on natural of natural resources utilization, emerge as someresources for livelihood is a special feature to note of the critical ways by which science can intervenein considering effects of climate change in Africa. to counter the threat of climate change to foodThe natural ecosystems (mainly forests, security in Africa. African scientists also recognizewoodlands and the Sahel) relied on for support, the importance of working to improve theespecially when climate change depresses integrated agro-production systems of theagriculture, are themselves threatened by over- predominantly subsistence farmers on theexploitation and now also by climate change. continent, which combine conservationDeterioration in these natural systems is reflected agriculture, organic farming, agro-forestry andin loss of biodiversity and degradation of traditional knowledge, to yield both adaptationcatchment areas that are crucial for water supply and mitigation farmlands, rivers and humans. Africa wil l faceincreasing water scarcity and stress with a CLIMATE CHANGE AND HEALTHsubsequent potential increase of water conflicts The stability of the health sector in Africa againstas almost all of the SO river basins in Africa are climate change is already seriously compromisedtransboundarl Degraded natural systems by a heavy burden of disease and disability. Thefurther diminish the capacity of rural people to Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change citescope with climate change. Africa in commenting on the importance of the health of a population as an element of adaptiveBy depressing agricultural productivity and capacity. The Panel observes that the future of theeroding the natural resource base for augmenting HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa, for example, willagriculture, climate change has the potential to determine how well African populations copeworsen the supply side of the food security with challenges like the spread of climate-relatedequation. Urgent action is needed to build the vector and water-borne infections, foodresilience of the agricultural and natural resource shortages and increased frequency (and intensity)
  5. 5. of storms, floods and droughts. The key concerns the world, with devastating outcomes in the health sector are not only with the diseases, Cases of land or mud- slides, wild fires or pestwhose prevalence and virulence may be epidemics have also been reported. Theaffected/exacerbated by climate change, but also consequences of these events include extensivewith the health systems that could be readily destruction of settlements with theiroverwhelmed by the health-care demands of infrastructure, extensive damage of farmlands,populations impacted by climate change. We deal fisheries and other means of livelihood, massivehere with effects on diseases alone. For vector- displacements and movements of people, foodand water-borne diseases, emphasis is on the shortages, disease epidemics and the breakdowneffect of climate change on their transmission in social order sometimes leading to combativedynamics. Studies already show that changes in conflicts. Displacement and movement of peopletemperature and precipitation could alter the may occur internally within countries, creatinggeographical distribution of malaria, with the category of Internally Displaced Refugeespreviously unsuitable areas of dense human {IDRs) or across borders among the 50 countriespopulations becoming suitable for transmission. of the continental land mass of Africa in variousScenario studies also project altitudinal shifts in patterns of migration. These extreme climate-malaria distribution in east African highlands by related events create challenges for disaster risk2050, while a recent simulation study in Nigeria 6 reduction and management that need to befound the risk of malaria epidemic to be linked studied to understand how climatic extremes,with projected high relative humidity and rainfall, human factors and the environment interact towhich support an increase in breeding sites. The influence disaster outcomes. Provision of thepoint is readily made that by expanding scientific bases for preparing against, andconditions that are conducive to the existence of minimizing, the risk of these disasters is thevectors or by leading to an increase in breeding primary challenge to Science.sites, climate change may enhance disease risk.The exact nature of the impact of climate change Actions required of Science include contributionson malaria and other diseases, however, remains to the development of risk assessments andto be firmly established by detailed concurrent mapping for various anticipated climate-relatedhistorical studies of climate and each disease, extreme events. The refinement of modelingtaking account of the influence of interaction with techniques, taking account also of natural systemsother factors like immunity, drug resistance, and traditional knowledge, in developing earlymalnutrition, poverty and even civil strife and war. warning systems contributes to strengthen riskThe IPCC makes the point that many challenges reduction. Science is also expected to intervene inremain in Africa for climatic- and health-impact developing effective and efficient disasterand adaptation research. management systems. Ultimately, resolution of the uncertainties in the science of climateEXTREME CLIMATE-RELATED EVENTS extreme - human factor - environmentThe frequent prolonged droughts and famines interaction, is the key to developing the adaptivethat have ravaged the Sahel and other parts of capacity for meeting the challenges of climate-Africa episodically since the 1970s are extreme related extreme events on the continent. Detailedclimate-related events that cannot be ignored in observations, assessments and models usingdiscussing the impacts of climate change on the climate as the driving factor are needed in thiscontinent. Flooding from excessive rainfall, sea regard.level rise and storm surges are climate -relatedextreme events currently ravaging many parts of ROLES OF AFRICAN SCIENCE ACADEMIES
  6. 6. Science is well suited to address Africas urgent models to local levels. The resulting increases indevelopmental needs, including challenges local data, measurements, and observationspresented by climate change. Global effort to could be used in downscaling processes and helpcombat climate change is based on the United reduce the uncertainties about the effect ofNations Framework Convention on Climate climate change on African climates, and facilitateChange (UNFCCC), which primarily aims to planning of interventions to moderate thestabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the impacts of climate change.atmosphere at a level that would preventdangerous anthropogenic interference with the Expanded observation of local events correlatedclimate system. The current target, pursued by with monitoring of climatic elements can clearvarious local and global mitigation efforts, is to uncertainties and improve the understanding ofprevent global warming from exceeding 2°C above the impact of climate change on health,pre-industrial levels. But the greenhouse gases agriculture and food security. It will also serve toalready emitted into the atmosphere expose the improve understanding of the interaction ofworld to global warming with the potential to climatic-extremes, human factors and thecause the climate change impacts now being environment in explaining the nature of climate-observed. Given the inertia in the climate system, related disasters. Effective reporting of thesebenefits of successful emission reduction efforts observations will serve to elevate the Africanare not likely to be realized for a long time. voice internationally in climate change debatesMeanwhile, current climate change impacts, and negotiations, and contribute to improvingwhich are more immediately apparent in Africa African participation in setting the agenda and inthan they are in most other parts of the world the utilization of opportunities for addressingwhere they are delayed and are not yet certain 2, climate change.continue to impede development in Africa. Africa Individual scientists already play critical roles inwill gain from its scientists working to improve on assisting their countries in meeting obligations asactivities that yield both mitigation and parties to the UNFCCC. They are prominent inadaptation benefits, such as the integrated agro- providing the information, especially theproduction systems that dominate land use on the greenhouse gas inventories, required in returningcontinent. At the same time, there is need to national communications to the Convention. Theaddress urgently climate change impacts that scientific communities, through the Sciencenow threaten development on the continent, Academies, should be prominent in helpingbeginning with elevating the baseline countries formulate their climate changeunderstanding of what climate change means response strategies or plans, utilizing evidence-today and will mean to Africa in the future. based information, developed from extensiveFilling the gaps in knowledge about the effects of observations and studies of the situation and theclimate change on the African climate system, so technical aspects of adaptation options in eachthat future scenarios can be effectively modeled, country. In both the health and the agricultureis the first requirement for sound planning of sectors, the Science Academies are challenged toadaptation measures. Extensive, systematic lead in the development of practices thatobservation and monitoring of climatic events, moderate the adverse effects of climate change,over a much greater density of hydro- take advantage of beneficial opportunities, andmeteorological observation stations is needed to help to build the adaptive capacities andbuild up the mass of local observations needed to resilience of the people.overcome the problems of downscaling global For addressing disasters caused by climate-
  7. 7. related extreme events, the Science Academies the Africa Union is crucial for deepening andare challenged to play a leading role not only in sustaining the engagement of the Scienceconvincing their countries but also in working Academies on climate change research.with their national or local governments todevelop tools and approaches to better KEY MESSAGES • Although Africa contributes marginally tounderstand and reduce disaster risks, or forelevating resilience to disasters caused by anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions thatextreme weather events related to climate accelerate global warming and climatechange and their attendant conditions. Across change, Africa will be more severely affectedAfrica, increases in the intensity or frequency of by climate change than most other regions offloods, mud- or land-slides, drought, ocean surge the world, because of her low adaptive capacity, engendered by inadequatealong the coastlines, and pest and disease information, low level of awareness andepidemics are expected. The Academies should preparedness, inadequate technology,also work to improve and make more effective financial constraints and the burden of otherlocal early-warning systems and effective ways ofcommunicating early warnings to reduce the risk, developmental stresses especiallylosses, and costs of disasters on all African widespread poverty.communities, especially those that are • Africas contribution of scientificconsidered to be vulnerable. Disaster Risk information for understanding climate changeReduction work should be accompanied with has been meagre. In consequence, Africa hasintervention to improve Disaster Risk not effectively participated in setting theManagement practices. agenda in the global debate, or benefittedAn effective platform for pursuing the roles adequately from available globaloutlined above is the emerging Future Earth opportunities, for addressing climate change.initiative of the International Council of Science • The large land mass of Africa, which(ICSU), that builds on the success of existing complicates the understanding of how climateprogrammes such as the International change affects the climates of Africa, theGeosphere-Biosphere Programme ( IGBP). heavy dependence of the African economy,African Science Academies should be closely led by agriculture, on weather and climate,linked with this, and other similar programmes, and the heavy burden of disease andfor the study of global environmental change, of disability, which seriously compromise thewhich climate change is part. Linkage through stability of the health sector against climateICSU programmes will enable the academies to change, separate Africa from other regionsgain from networking and exchange of when dealing with climate change.information and resources among themselves.Through such a platform, national science • Expanded observation of local eventsacademies should maintain a continuing correlated with monitoring of climaticengagement with their governments for providing elements can clear uncertainties and improvequality technical advice to decision-makers on the understanding of the impact of climateclimate change. African Science Academies change on health, agriculture and foodshould also open up to greater collaboration with security. It can also serve to improvesocial scientists in order to deal effectively with understanding of the interaction of climatic-the multidisciplinary challenges presented by extremes, human factors and theclimate change Support from governments and environment in explaining the nature of
  8. 8. climate-related disasters. each country. In both the health and the• The greenhouse gases already emitted agriculture sectors, the Science Academies into the atmosphere expose the world to are challenged to lead in the development of global warming with th e potential to cause practices that moderate the adverse effects of the climate change impacts now being climate change, take advantage of beneficial observed. Given the inertia in the climate opportunities, and help to build the adaptive system, benefits of successful emission capacities and resilience of the people. reduction efforts are unlikely to be realized for a long time. Meanwhile, current climate • The scientific community in Africa, led by change impacts impede development in the Science Academies should intensify Africa. While working to improve activities detailed observations, assessments and that offer both mitigation and adaptation modeling, using climate as the driving factor benefits, there is need to increase baseline to resolve the uncertainties in the science of understanding of current and future climate extreme- human factor- environment climate change in Africa, so that climate interactions, ultimately helping to develop the change impacts now threatening adaptive capacity ofthe continent for meeting development on the continent can be the challenges of cl imate-related extreme urgently mitigated. events.• Science Academies in Africa are • Governments in Africa and the Africa challenged to lead in helping their countries Union should provide and increase their formulate their climate change response support for scientific research on climate strategies or plans, utilizing evidence-based change, and foster a continuing engagement information, developed from extensive with national Science Academies for providing observations and studies of the situation and technical advice on climate change. the technical aspects of adaptation options in REFERENCES l.( 2. Paul Collier, Gordon Conway and Tony Venable. 2008. Climate Change and Africa. Oxford Review of Economic Policy 24, 337 - 353. 3 . Sathaye, J.A., Makundi, W.R.,Dale, l., Chan, P and Andrasko, K. 2006. A Dynamic Partial-equilibrium Model for Estimating Global . Forestry GHG Potential Costs and Benefits. In: The Energy Journal, Special Issue, pp. 94-125. 4. Opere, A., Olago, D., Chidumayo, E. and Osman-Eiasha, B. 2011. Climate Change Processes and Impacts. In: Chidumayo, E., Okali, D., Kowero, G. and Larwanou, M. (Editors). Climate Change and African Forest and Wildlife Resources. African Forest Forum, Nairobi, Kenya. 5. Ashton PJ., 2002. Avoiding Conflicts over Africas Water Resources. Ambia 31(3): pp. 236 242. 6. Abiodun, B.J., Salami A.T. and Tadross M. 2011. Climate Change Scenarios for Nigeria: Understanding Biophysical Impacts for Adaptation Strategies. Climate Systems Analysis Group, Cape Town, for Building Nigerias Response to Climate Change Project. I bad an, Nigerian Environmental Study/Action Team (NEST).t Cameroon Academy of Sciences, Ethiopian Academy of Sciences, Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences, Kenya National Academy ofSciences, Mauritius Academy of Science and Technology, Hassan II Academy of Science and Technology, Academia de Ciencias deMocambique, The Nigerian Academy of Science, Academie Nationale des Sciences et Techniques du Senegal, Academy of Science of SouthAfrica, Sudanese National Academy of Sciences, The Tanzania Academy of Sciences, Uganda National Academy of Sciences, ZambiaAcademy of Sciences, Zimbabwe Academy of Sciences