Initiative to Raise Awareness on Climate Change Impacts

An initiative has been formed to help African and Asian societies understand climate change-related impacts such as extreme weather events and prepare for future ones, reports Isaac Odhiambo for SciDev.Net.

Floods in Somlia, May 2016. Photo copyright: Maryama Dayib
Floods in Somalia, May 2016. Photo copyright: Maryama Dayib

The initiative called Raising Risk Awareness will involve a team of scientists who will examine whether climate change has contributed to extreme weather events such as droughts, floods and heatwaves in East Africa and South Asia, and disseminate findings to a variety of audiences such as journalists, policymakers and the public.

The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the UK’s Department for International Development (DfID)-funded Climate and Development Knowledge Network (CDKN) — one of the initiative’s partners — said in a joint statement last month (11 May) that scientists from the World Weather Attribution, a new international effort that aims to increase the analyses and communication of the impacts of climate change, will help implement the initiative.

Suzanne Carter, senior project manager of CDKN Africa, says that science has progressed substantially in recent years, enhancing more accurate assessment of how much extreme event is driven by climate change and other factors.

“This [initiative] will help African and Asian policymakers to understand the future risks of extreme events that may increase with climate change,” Carter tells SciDev.Net. “In Africa we will be working in Kenya and one other East African country still to be confirmed. CDKN has worked with the government of Kenya for many years.”

She adds that because of a focus on heatwaves the pilot countries in South Asia are India and Pakistan.

According to Carter, the primary objective of the initiative is to “engage with interested stakeholders in pilot countries to ensure that if an extreme event were to happen the networks are in place to conduct an analysis and that local scientists can work with climate attribution tools to build their local capacity”.

Carter explains that the team will use global climate models of future climate, regional climate model of the area in question and historical datasets of weather observations in a given area.

Carter says that the initiative, which started last month, hopes that academic partners will be able to conduct analyses even after the programme ends in March next year because the programme is building capacity by training local experts.

The initiative intends to work with some local institutions that they are still identifying, and will include academic institutions, policy makers and journalists, Cater adds.

Samwel N’Marigi, senior assistant director of climate services at the Kenya Meteorological Department, says this is a very good initiative which should have commenced even a decade ago.

“This initiative is going to be an excellent bridge between science and policy as it will bring scientific findings closer to policy- and decision-makers in a somewhat simpler and understandable formats,” he tells SciDev.Net.