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Africa’s adaptation to climate change hampered

Over the past three decades Africa received 3.8% of global climate-related research funding, despite the fact the continent has contributed among the least to greenhouse gas emissions, yet have already experienced widespread losses and damages.

According to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, titled “Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability”, up to 3.6 billion people are living in climate “hot spots”, with most of these areas in Africa, Asia and South America. The report was released in February 2022.  Climate-related research in Africa “faces severe funding constraints, with unequal funding relationships between countries and their research partners in Europe and North America. This figure is incommensurate with Africa’s high vulnerability to climate change.”

The implications of this latest report for Southern Africa were discussed during a recent webinar hosted by the African Climate Development Initiative (ACDI) at UCT and the School for Climate Studies at SU.  During the webinar, Dr Chris Trisos, one of the lead authors on the African chapter, said “existing research funding focuses mostly on ecosystems, food systems and water, with much less funding for other sectors at high risk such as health and cities.”

This lack of Africa-focused research has serious implications. Not only are research agendas shaped from a northern hemisphere perspective, but African researchers are positioned primarily as recipients engaged to support these agendas instead of being equal partners in setting the agenda. These inequities in funding and research leaderships reduce our adaptive capacity.

The situation is further exacerbated by the lack of data coming out of Africa:

  • Sparse and intermittent weather station data limit attribution of climate trends to human-caused climate change for areas such as Central Africa and hinder more accurate climate change projections.
  • Only 25 of the 54 African countries conducted surveys that could be used to construct measures of poverty during 2000-2010.

Because of these challenges, much of what is known about climate impacts and risks in Africa relies on evidence from global studies that use data largely from outside Africa”.

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