A recent international, transdisciplinary research project co-led by the University of Cape Town found that the limit of 1.5 °C to 2 °C set by the Paris Climate Accord for rising temperatures does not protect semi-arid areas from severe climate change effects.
Over five years, the Adaptation at Scale in Semi-Arid Regions (ASSAR), a research consortium of 17 partners from 11 countries, studied how climate change affects the well-being and livelihoods of communities living in the semi-arid regions of Botswana, Namibia, Ghana, Mali, Kenya, Ethiopia and India.
“The semi-arid regions of Africa and Asia – which are home to hundreds of millions of people – are particularly vulnerable to climate-related risks,” said Professor Mark New, director of UCT’s African Climate and Development Initiative (ACDI) and ASSAR’s principal investigator in a statement.
“These climate-change hotspots are dynamic systems that already experience harsh climates, adverse environmental change and a competition for natural resources. Even a 1.5 °C increase in global temperature will result in warming in semi-arid regions that is greater than the global average.”
The Paris Climate Accord set 1.5 °C as the ideal level below which temperatures can rise globally. But they did not take into account that 1.5 °C does not have the same impact everywhere.
“For example, we found that semi-arid zones in Botswana, Namibia and Mali will experience higher levels of warming than the global average,” said New. “Temperatures in the semi-arid zones of Kenya, Ethiopia, Ghana and India will also rise above the global average, but will not warm as quickly as those in southern Africa and Mali.”
ASSAR’s findings show that agricultural and livestock productivity could decline, and health and disease burdens of semi-arid communities could increase.
“For effective policy-making, it is crucial to understand the cultural, social and ecological context of each community, the factors that influence people’s vulnerability and ability to respond to risks, and their well-being,” said Scodanibbio.