ACCESS Theme 2 – Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation

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Dr Emma Archer Van Garderen (CSIR)                  Professor Bruce Hewitson

(earcher @ csir.co.za)                                             (hewitson @ csag.uct.ac.za)

Student statistics 2013: PhD (10)

Partner institutions: WITS, UCT, CSIR, NWU, UKZN, SUN

See ACCESS Research Compendium Compendium  2013 Pages 18-23 for details…


Africa is particularly vulnerable to regional changes and variability of the climate system,compounded by key gaps in knowledge and understanding of regional system dynamics, projected impacts and adaptation options and mitigation. Collectively, these issues severely limit effective decision-making and the implementation of value response actions by society, and leave stakeholders with a potentially high risk exposure to climate change. Theme 2 seeks to contribute to addressing this problem through two work packages — addressing regional climate projections (focusing on projected climate change for the subcontinent), and climate change impacts (projected/modelled impacts for key sectors); with a particular focus on student training at M- and PhD-level in these areas. Stakeholders’ knowledge need for climate change-related information vastly outweighs the delivery capacity of any single research activity. However, this programme targets selected key priority activities to maximise the benefit to society. A central foundation to responding to climate change is the availability of relevant information and underpinning the understanding of physical changes and the baseline attributes of the regional climate system. Without this knowledge, all one can do is enhance resilience in anticipation of an unknown. This deliverable thus forms a core component on which much of the broader foci of the programme of work are dependent. Recognising the research capacity within South Africa, and the state of knowledge about the subcontinent’s climate system, the following research topics represent a selected priority knowledge gap that constrains the development of relevant policy and adaptation, including those reflected as priority needs by SADC (SADC 2011). These areas of weak knowledge significantly undermine the decision-making process in responding to climate change. The WCRP CORDEX programme is set to transform the data landscape of climate change projections for Africa, with multiple RCM and statistical downscaling within a common simulation design, forged by the latest generation GCMs. However, no single model is identifiable as ‘best’; all models include error and bias (both known and unknown). There thus remains a frontier challenge as to how to utilise the multi-model and ensemble information to maximise understanding. This activity will develop the approaches to maximise the information content from a stakeholder’s perspective. Few attempts have been made to collate research regarding climate change impacts on key sectors in the SADC region, with an eye to identifying critical research gaps going forward. New modelling is undertaken by PhD students as the budget and supervision allows. Sectors selected for impact modelling comprise those indicated as priority sectors of concern under the SASSCAL programme (which is providing complementary funding), and the additional priority sector of health, also reflected as impact sectors critical to the SADC region. Key objectives for this theme include collating multi-model and ensemble information within CORDEX Africa and making it available in an accessible and understandable format (including training); and collating the latest impact results for the agriculture, health, water, forestry and biodiversity sectors within SADC, including new sectoral modelling as the budget allows.