Co-producing climate information for Africa

This outline of the Future Climate For Africa program was written for Latitude by Roy Bouwer of SouthSouthNorth

Africa is one of the regions most exposed to the effects of climate change. The continent’s climate has already changed, with extremes occurring more often and with greater intensity. Countries on the continent need to integrate accurate and relevant climate information into decision-making in order to protect the lives and livelihoods of people and communities. However, one of the main obstacles to integrating climate change into decision-making is the poor scientific understanding of Africa’s climate, which leads to great uncertainty about future changes. The Future Climate For Africa (FCFA) program aimed to address this problem by dramatically improving the generation and use of climate information in policies, planning and investments.

The FCFA was a research and development program jointly funded by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). The shared focus on basic climate science and solving real-world problems has enabled the program to generate significant impact. The program worked in a particularly collaborative fashion, which meant that expertise and technical capabilities could be shared to solve problems. It also enabled rapid scientific progress as expertise was shared across the continent, and emerging discoveries could be exploited by other researchers to advance their own research.

In the area of ​​climate science, the FCFA has been able to improve the fundamental understanding of the main factors of climate in Africa. Some of the important results of this have been a better understanding of the climate of East Africa (including the variability of long and short rains and the climate paradox of East Africa), understanding of the changes in mega-storms in West Africa and understanding the links between the climate of central and southern Africa. Exploring these key processes that play a role in driving regional climates has provided crucial information for understanding how the climate is changing or will change in the future, and the risks associated with it.

Another central element of FCFA’s climate science work focused on model development. New knowledge from FCFA research has been incorporated into global climate models, and a new convection model has been developed specifically for Africa – CP4-Africa. The high-resolution CP4-Africa model is able to better simulate convection systems (such as thunderstorms) at a finer scale than was previously possible with global models. This has provided new information on future climate extremes in Africa, indicating that extreme rainfall and periods of drought may become more frequent than previously suggested by global models.

The deepening understanding of Africa’s climate laid the groundwork for providing accurate and relevant information to inform long-term decision-making. In order to solve real-world problems across the continent, the FCFA’s regional research consortia have adopted new approaches to engagement through a series of pilot studies focused on context-specific development issues. Key to engagement in these pilot studies was co-production, which aimed to connect scientists with decision-makers to identify and deliver relevant, demand-driven climate information.

Adopting a co-production approach helped develop the capacity of researchers to produce information relevant to decision-making, while building buy-in and co-ownership of information and developing the capacity of decision-makers to use the information. information. An example of this is demonstrated by the CI4-Tea project which worked with tea producers in Kenya and Malawi to co-identify relevant climatic parameters for tea production. This has enabled climatologists to produce locally relevant projections of extreme temperatures, identified by tea producers as a major concern, to inform relevant adaptation options in the sector.

Working closely with policymakers to develop relevant information has also helped scientists understand how to present and communicate climate risks. Climate risk narratives have been developed to combine high-level climate messages with local development data to describe 2-3 possible future scenarios. Climate risk stories were produced for cities in southern Africa, as well as for rural and urban settings in East Africa. These stories have been useful tools to guide engagement around future climate risks to support sound decision-making in the water and sanitation sectors.

The FCFA has demonstrated the value of investments in climate research as well as in the co-production of climate information. Through better scientific understanding and new engagement approaches to influencing real-world issues, the program was able to: influence 13 policies, plans and investments; provide 14 tools to support decision making; and engage directly with 187 institutions. However, in order to have the expected long-term impacts, sustained efforts are necessary to ensure the continuation of the FCFA’s work. Going forward, it is important to find ways to extend and replicate the approaches taken within the FCFA to ensure effective adaptation to climate change.

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