Advancing Water and Food Sustainability through Improved Understanding of Uncertainties in Climate Change and Climate Variability

Advancing Water and Food Sustainability through Improved Understanding of Uncertainties in Climate Change and Climate Variability
Susan Solomon, Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences and Department of Chemistry
Kenneth Strzepek, MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change

Period of performance: 

September 2015 to August 2017
food, water, sustainability, climate change, agriculture, africa, Nile Basin, crops, modeling

Abstract: 

Understanding the future evolution of water needs, availability and adaptation challenges due to climate change requires an understanding not only of average climate changes, but also of their inter-annual and decadal variability and associated uncertainties. In recent years, two different types of large ensemble runs of climate projections have become available, those from more than twenty different climate models, and those from repeated runs of several individual models. Climate model ensemble information provides a rich new basis for improved quantification of climate factors contributing to water stresses across a range of applications and sectors, and a greatly improved basis for future projections of where adaptation measures that “climate-proof” against past experience of variability should be bolstered or changed.

We will use a broad range of available multi- and individual climate model ensembles to derive climate- related changes with quantified uncertainties in anthropogenic signals across the 21st century. We will focus on impacts on key food crops in the six countries in the southern portion of the Nile Basin—Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda, as well as potential adaptation measures that could be taken there, and their costs. The risks of climate change for the agricultural sector in this region are a particularly immediate and important problem both because the majority of the rural population depends either directly or indirectly on agriculture for their livelihoods. Further, the new climate ensemble information shows that they will experience or are already experiencing climates that are statistically different from the past. We will identify a set of measures at the national and agricultural region level that, if enacted, have the potential to dramatically increase the resilience of this vulnerable region’s agriculture to climate change.