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Report equips African decision-makers with new climate science




November 9, 2016


London and Cape Town, 9th November 2016: Africa’s climate is one of the least-researched and poorly understood, but a new report provides reliable scientific information about the continent’s changing climate, equipping decision-makers to plan better. Africa’s Climate: Helping decision-makers make sense of climate information is the first major programme-wide report to emerge from Future Climate for Africa (FCFA). FCFA comprises five major research projects to develop better climate information for Africa and to test how the new information could be used in decision-making, with potential benefit for millions of affected Africans. African countries are facing many challenges in achievement of their development goals, which may be hampered by the impact of climate change,” said Wilfried Pokam Mba of University of Yaounde, a FCFA researcher in Cameroon. “In this context, fulfilment of development efforts over the continent requires reliable climate information.” Sam Bickersteth, Chief Executive of the Climate and Development Knowledge Network, which acts as the ‘knowledge hub’ for the FCFA programme, said: “FCFA provides high quality climate information to help governments and businesses make more climate-resilient investments.” This report, he says, is one such example of information being made available to help guide policy-makers, scientists and practitioners on climate change issues affecting the continent. “It is hoped that decision-makers can steer the continent’s infrastructure and development plans in a direction that can capitalise on the opportunities presented by climate change in future, while offsetting the potential ill effects,” said Mr Bickersteth. Written by some 40 leading experts, the report presents an Africa-wide overview of climate trends, and is distilled into 15 factsheets that are tailored for specific sub-regions and countries. The report captures the current state of knowledge, and explores the ‘burning scientific questions’ that still need to be answered. FCFA’s five research teams will be delivering many of these answers in the next three years, to 2019. Key findings in the Africa’s Climate report:
  • Climate modelling indicates that east Africa is expected to warm in the next five to 40 years, although changes in rainfall are much less certain.
  • Extreme events (floods, droughts, heatwaves, and so on) are expected to change and in most cases increase into the future.
  • The region is severely understudied, because of a lack of scientific observation data, such as that from weather stations
  • Southern African economies are exposed to weather and climate vulnerabilities, particularly through sectors such as agriculture, energy, and water management. It follows that the supply of essential resources are all extremely at risk as the climate becomes more changeable and extreme.
  • Most government departments are planning according to a three- to five-year time horizon, while the climate projections are based on decades-longer timeframes, such as looking to 2050 and beyond.
  • Applying past data to the future, which is also used by other ministries, is potentially problematic as it assumes that the future climate will mirror the past, which may not be the case for projected climate change.
  • Although there is uncertainty associated with the future climate projections, climate change will have significant economic impacts across Africa.
  • Future climate change is likely to lead to new risks: the negative impacts seen from today’s climate variability are likely to become worse.
  • While there is often uncertainty in climate projections, this should not be a reason for inaction.
Chris Taylor of the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (UK), said: “This report provides a synthesis of our current state of knowledge and identifies where further multi-disciplinary research like FCFA is needed.” “The impacts of climate change in Africa will affect lives across the whole world,” said John Marsham, University of Leeds. “This report is an important first step for the FCFA programme. It  addresses the urgent need to both improve climate change predictions for Africa, and to better use those predictions for decision-making.” “This report describes the urgent need for climate models to provide more robust projections of future climate change over the African continent. By applying an ‘Africa lens’ to developing climate models, we can speed up the rate of progress to deliver more confident projections for decision-makers to use,” said Catherine Senior of the UK Met Office. “Africa is the most vulnerable continent to climate variability and change mainly due to its low adaptive capacity. This FCFA report is therefore a must-read for everyone working on the continent especially within climate-sensitive sectors like agriculture, water and energy,” said Victor Indasi at the Climate Systems Analysis Group (CSAG) at the University of Cape Town. Contact: Julio Araujo FCFA Coordination, Capacity Development and Knowledge Exchange – South Africa (9-18 November): +27 (0) 21 447 0211 and Mairi Dupar FCFA Coordination, Capacity Development and Knowledge Exchange – UK: +44 (0) 7921 088475 FCFA’s Coordination, Capacity Development and Knowledge Exchange unit is based with the Climate and Development Knowledge Network ( in Cape Town, South Africa. Representatives of the CCKE will discuss the initiative and the report on Thursday 17 November, 16:45-18:15 in Observer room 6 at COP22 in Marrakech, Morocco. For project details, news and briefing guides to date, visit: Follow us on twitter: @future_climate Editor’s notes FCFA is a joint programme of the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) and Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and is made up of five projects:
  • AMMA-2050 (African Monsoon Multidisciplinary Analysis 2050)
AMMA-2050 will improve understanding of how the West African monsoon will be affected by climate change in the coming decades – and help West African societies prepare and adapt. Led by: Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, UK.
  • FRACTAL (Future Resilience for African Cities and Lands)
FRACTAL will improve scientific knowledge of future climate trends in Southern Africa, deepen urban policy-makers’ understanding of how climate change will affect water and energy services, and support them to explore climate-resilient development choices. Led by: University of Cape Town, South Africa.
  • HyCRISTAL (Integrating Hydro-Climate Science into Policy Decisions for Climate-Resilient Infrastructure and Livelihoods in East Africa)
HyCRISTAL will develop new understanding of climate change and its impacts in East Africa, working with the region’s decision-makers to manage water for a more climate-resilient future. Led by: University of Leeds, UK.
  • IMPALA ( Improving Model Processes for African Climate)
IMPALA research will improve understanding of African climate processes and the mechanisms of future change – leading to  a step change in global climate model prediction capability for Africa. Led by: Met Office, UK.
  • UMFULA (Uncertainty reduction in Models for Understanding Development Applications)
UMFULA will provide new insights and more reliable information about climate processes and extremes in Central and Southern Africa. UMFULA will partner with agencies and universities in Tanzania and Malawi to link the information to development decisions with long-term consequences. Led by: London School of Economics, UK.     Image: Africa dust cloud from space, courtesy NOAA Satellites.