A clearer picture of change
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CTA. 2003. A clearer picture of change. Rural Radio Resource Pack 03/04. Wageningen, The Netherlands: CTA.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/57409
A climate expert from the UK discusses how improved understanding and information about changing weather patterns in Africa should improve the response of governments and people.
Cue: Is Africa?s climate changing? Is it becoming hotter and drier as a result of global warming? For many years scientists have been uncertain about exactly what climate change will mean for Africa, and this may be one reason why many governments have been slow to respond to the threat. However, in recent years one feature of our changing weather patterns has become more clear - extreme weather events, such as droughts and floods are becoming more common. Could this greater certainty about how our climate is changing lead to a more active response from governments and individuals? One person who thinks it might is Declan Conway, a climate expert who has spent the last ten years studying weather patterns in Africa. He recently spoke to Mike Davison about how he thinks attitudes towards climate change could themselves be changing. IN: ?In the past what we? OUT: ?climate change in the future.? DUR?N 4?39? BACK ANNOUNCEMENT: Declan Conway, a climate expert based at the University of East Anglia in the UK. Transcript Conway In the past what we tended to look at were emissions of greenhouse gases, which are causing the problems of climate change. So carbon dioxide, burning of trees, burning of fossil fuels, oil, gas and so on. But gradually as people have begun to realise that we are now committed to a certain amount of climate change, however much we change the present day emissions of greenhouse gases, we therefore need to think about adaptation. How is it that we can deal with these. How can individuals improve their capacity to manage extremes and variability, and what can the government do about intervening in those sort of events. Davison And what kind of things would you be recommending, say in response to floods? Conway Well for floods, for example, we know that often we get a chance to forecast that a flood is going to occur. As conditions get gradually wetter and wetter, and the land begins to become saturated, we can say that there may well be a flood event in the next few days, and some people may be exposed to lake-side flooding, or the river bursting its banks, and either their fields being affected, or their homes, or their animals being affected by that. So if we can improve the ability to be able to warn people about those kinds of events, then that would be a good first step. Davison And imagine that you are able to warn people, crop farmers, livestock farmers; what can they do if they know a flood is coming? Conway Well some of the things that could be done for example; a lot of flood events are caused by very heavy rainfall. Now if that occurs during the harvest season, farmers could be told or suggested that they harvest their crops early, before the rain comes. Or people who live in flood plains, areas that are likely to be flooded by rivers, could be warned about the hazard, so that they can then move temporarily out of the way, or move their animals. Davison So it is actually very useful and practical information to know when a flood is coming? Conway That?s right, it is. Davison In terms of the future, do you think that there are things that are going to be happening over the next ten years, say, that are going to make it easier for people to respond to climate change? Conway I think gradually as governments, as institutions and as people get more used to the idea that climate is actually less reliable than it used to be in the past - so of course, for most of the last century we have accepted that the climate doesn?t really change very much from year to year. But now when you speak to people, farmers, managers of reservoirs, dams and so on, we are beginning to see that more and more people are saying, ?Well, things seem to be a little bit different to us?. And I think that as that realisation becomes more accepted, then governments, people can begin to plan for more variability in the future, and that is very likely the thing that climate change is going to bring in the future, and that is less certainty about when the rains may come, how long the rains may last, or whether there may be any breaks in the rain, that kind of information. Davison So you think that the forecasting, the predicting of when a rainy season is likely to start, could actually be the kind of information that could be spread to farmers, to help them with making decisions about what to grow and, when to grow it? Conway That?s right, there certainly is a lot of interest in this area; the ability to use seasonal forecasting information. So that is like the weather forecasts we hear on the news about what is going to happen today or tomorrow, what the temperatures will be, whether it is going to rain. We are now developing an ability to be able to say, over the next two or three months, we are likely to see a very wet rainy season, so more rain than usual, or perhaps the rainy season may be quite dry. And that information, given the ability of farmers to be able to adapt to or act on that information, may actually be quite useful. It could also be useful for reservoir management; so how much water do we release from the reservoir this week, next week and so on, in the light of the seasonal forecast. So it is still in the early phase of development, but it is potentially a good strategy for dealing with climate change in the future. End of track.