In the absence of meaningful measurement techniques, how do African countries back their commitment to reducing carbon dioxide emission in their quest to reduce the effects of climate change? The answer is obvious: It is difficult.
This is the reason some countries in Africa, with the help of international organisations are setting up of projects that will enable them, among other things, measure atmospheric carbon dioxide emissions. And Kenya seems to be a leading example.
The System for Land Based Emissions in Kenya, (SLEEK) which the Kenyan Government is implementing with assistance from the Clinton Foundation seeks to integrate data on crops, soil, forestry and weather and to eventually make such data accessible to governments and to people so that they manage their activities better as they try to cut emission.
But while countries like Kenya are able to embark on a project like this, the story is not the same for most African countries where scientists fear the lack of data on weather is posing a big threat to the fight against the effect of climate change as it is difficult to predict climatic trends on the continent.
According to Sarah O’Keefe, a PhD student at the Environmental Change Institute of the University of Oxford in the UK, which runs a modeling initiative called climateprediction.net, the scarcity of weather data, which she attributes largely to lack of political will among players on the continent is leaving the continent more prone to effect of climate change as there are no statistics to work with.
In agreeing with O’ Keefe, Rolf Hut of Delft University in the Netherlands challenges academics to devise ways of coming with weather data in Africa saying the availability of such data can trigger immediate benefits to people on the continent. Hut cites farmers whom he said can benefit from low insurance premiums that can emanate from the availability of data on weather.
“As academics, we recognise how little weather data is available in Africa,” Hut says. “It’s one of the biggest and most complex land areas of the planet, but there are no ground observations.
“With more-detailed weather data, insurance companies could simply check the records for each patch of land for which a claim is made, with the savings leading to cheaper premiums. Farmers can insure their harvest, on a very small scale. But, at the moment, companies have to verify impacts in person at the end of the season on a case-by-case basis, which makes their expenses, and eventually the premiums, much higher,” he says.
With the upcoming United Nations Major Climate Change Summit slated for December 2015 in Paris pushing for countries to improve weather data gathering, African countries need to borrow from Kenya’s SLEEK programme, despite being in pilot phase, and devise ways that can practically back their plans of reducing carbon emissions from 2020. And researchers have a critical role to play in the realization of this dream.