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Coordinated approaches are required to address climate change, and reduce unintended consequences on African river basins

Coordinated approaches are required to address climate change, and reduce unintended consequences on African river basins

Coordinated approaches are needed to address climate change and reduce unintended consequences for African river basins

Coordinated approaches are needed to address climate change and reduce unintended consequences for African river basins
Sugarcane fields need irrigation all year long via pivot irrigation. This uses sprinklers rotating about a central water pump, creating huge circles. Water-hungry crops often have a large environmental impact. Credit: ATEC-3D

As the world works to combat climate change and achieve sustainable development goals worldwide, the Water-Energy-Food Nexus will be a major focus. A multidisciplinary team from Politecnico di Milano’s Environmental Intelligence for Global Change Lab developed a model to simulate thousands in possible scenarios of climate change, mitigation policies, as well as their local effects, that will help guide future policy decisions. One of the key findings from their research was that it is necessary to carefully coordinate global policies in order to reduce unintended detrimental local impacts on African river basins.

The study was published in Nature Climate Change, explores more that 7,000 future scenarios that combine different socio-economic projections and alternative mitigation policies. These results indicate that Fragmentation in the approaches of developed and developing countries to addressing carbon emissions caused by land-use changes can make African basins more vulnerable. Research shows that such fragmented policies could encourage the proliferation large-scale agriculture projects in Africa if land use emissions are priced lower.

This rapid increase of agricultural land use could result in irrigation demands that are twice as high as under globally coordinated emissions reduction strategies. This can both address climate changes and reduce local vulnerabilities. Higher irrigation requirements could reduce the availability and quality of water resources for hydropower production and ecosystem services, particularly in river Deltas. This could put stress on African economies, natural ecosystems, and the economy as a whole.

This study reveals the importance of linking global climate change mitigation policies to local multisector dynamics.

“Water resources management studies tend to be limited to the physical boundaries of river basins, and do not capture interconnections at larger scales. This research results in one of the first “glocal”, where the effects of global mitigation policies can be downscaled and analyzed at a finer river basin-scale,” says Professor Andrea Castelletti of Politecnico di Milano’s Environmental Intelligence Lab. “Our results demonstrate how global strategies should be reexamined in light of unexpected and unintended local impacts to foster a more sustainable transition towards a decarbonized future.”

This research is one of many outputs of the EU Horizon 2020 Project Decision Analytic Framework to examine the water-energy/food Nexus in complex transboundary waters resource systems of fast-developing countries (DAFNE). The DAFNE project incorporates tools from different research fields—mathematical models, optimization algorithms, climate science and socio-economic projections—to promote an integrated and participatory approach for water resources planning and management. This approach was tested in Zambezi Watercourse, and Omo-Turkana Basin in order to assist local stakeholders and decision-makers in the identification and implementation of sustainable development pathways that address the Water-Energy-Food Nexus.

“It is clear that it is crucial to immediately mitigate the climate crisis,” says Dr. Patrick Reed at Cornell University. He is also the Joseph C. Ford Professor for Engineering. “The Zambezi is an example of how global land use policies can increase tensions across impacted agricultural, water, and energy systems.

“Everyday we are learning how interconnected the world really is, and that actions taken in one sector or region can have far reaching effects,” Dr. Jonathan Lamontagne, assistant professor in Civil and Environmental Engineering at Tufts University. “Our study is a first example linking local challenges to global drivers within the context of reservoir management. This analysis will be increasingly important as the world adapts to climate change.

“We can’t stress enough the importance of coordinated approaches to climate change policy based on exploration of a wide variety of future scenarios for better understanding tradeoffs and vulnerabilities across different scales,” said Dr. Matteo Giuliani. He was Assistant Professor in Environmental Intelligence Lab at Politecnico di Milano and led the paper. “This work represents a major step towards achieving a better understanding and identification of more sustainable, equitable climate change mitigation strategies.”

Together, we can address climate change and air pollution to reduce health-economic effects

More information:
Matteo Giuliani, et al. Unintended consequences climate change mitigation for African river basins Nature Climate Change (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s41558-021-01262-9

Provided by
Politecnico di Milano

See Also
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, senators Bennet and Hickenlooper talked climate change during visit to Glenwood Canyon

Coordinated approaches are required to address climate change, and reduce unintended consequences of African river basins (2022, Feb 1)
Retrieved 1 February 2022

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