The University of Cape Town (UCT) is leading a project to measure the long term effects of humans on global warming, with a view toward reducing impacts on Africans and Global South populations.
UCT African Climate and Development Initiative (ACDI) director Professor Mark New is co-leader of a team that includes African climate experts and emerging researchers from South Africa, Benin, Nigeria, Liberia and Kenya. They’re working in partnership with British and American research teams to understand extreme weather impacts that connect with water-related risks, beginning with drought.
“This is cutting-edge science led by African researchers, for African application,” said New. That’s important because until now, attribution studies like this have been done almost exclusively at research centers in Global North nations.
“Climate change poses serious development challenges for Africa, from both the greenhouse gas emissions reduction and adaptation to climate risk perspectives,” New said. “For adaptation, African countries are among the most vulnerable to climate change and variability.”
That’s been all too clear in Cape Town, which has experienced alarming levels of drought in recent years. This acute level of drought can now be expected once every 15 years rather than 50, and the UCT researchers say there is a clear tie to human activity behind the change.
What they’re looking at now, using sophisticated modeling, is how weather extremes translate into on-the-ground realities, and how better to prepare for impacts.
“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 modeled worlds,” New said.