Lagos — African scientists urgently need to build more evidence on the impact of climate change on the continent, a conference has heard.
A joint statement issued at the eighth Annual Meeting of African Science Academies last month (12-14November) in Nigeria, notes that Africa lacks much home-grown data about the impacts of extreme weather events and sea level rise.
It says: "Actions required of science include contributions to the development of risk assessments and mapping for various anticipated climate-related extreme events. The refinement of modelling techniques, taking account also of natural systems and traditional knowledge, in developing early warning systems contributes to strengthen risk reduction."
Nigeria's president, Goodluck Jonathan, launched the statement, entitled 'Climate change in Africa: using science to reduce climate risks', and stressed that climate change information is needed for planning.
"We believe that strong evidence-based knowledge on climate change will help policymakers take decisions and actions required to reduce climate risks in Africa," he said.
Roseanne Diab, executive officer of the Academy of Science of South Africa, toldSciDev.Net that a study on the impact of climate change on Africa would take at least two years and should be coordinated by the Network of African Science Academies (NASAC).
Patrick Kelley, director of the US National Academies' board on the African Science Academy Development Initiative (ASADI), adds that although the call should have come years ago, the recurrence of extreme weather effects, droughts and floods has made the situation more urgent than ever.
"This is something that the scientific community has recognised for a few years now and Africa, I am glad to say, is getting on board now," he says.
Each African country should prioritise climate change issues and fund the engagement of scientists with policy makers, comments DoyinOdubanjo, executive secretary of the Nigerian Academy of Science.
He adds that Africa scientists have so far made less than a fifth of the contributions to the global climate change debate.
Odubanjo tells SciDev.Net that huge funds are available after events such as floods in Nigeria and that investing some of this cash in climate change research and communication could avoid deaths and damage in the country and elsewhere.