Climate Change: still getting hot!

DSC_0226 Nowadays, discussions about climate change are almost a guaranteed part of any scientific or academic forum. Tropentag 2011 is no exception. It is not only that climate change had one thematic session and two posters sessions dedicated to it, but the topic was constantly mentioned in other sessions such as Food Security, Ecosystem Services, Soil Fertility, Crop Production, Water and Irrigation, and Forests. I am not implying that climate change is THE ISSUE, but it seems clear that it was one of the key issues connecting the theme of marginality. If you follow the “whereabouts” of climate change (as I do!), you won’t be surprise to hear that nothing really new came out the Tropentag 2011. Don’t get me wrong, there were lots of useful new data, nice climatic models, experimental results and adaptation activities; but they were in most cases, an improved version of what we saw in previous gatherings dealing with the issue -nothing really new-. Where the heat comes from? I was actually surprised to see that during the thematic session, the large lecture room was overflowing with people. It was probably the most attended session apart from the plenary session on Wednesday 6 October, clearly indicating that visitors to Tropentag 2011 considered climate change as one of the hottest issues at the conference. For a moment, I was kind of disappointed because I got the feeling that still most of the brain potential and economic resources are spent in reducing uncertainty of climatic models (one uncertainty at the time!); measuring biological/atmospheric interactions (which are not fully understood!); and forecasting changes in natural environments using models and interactions other scientists are still working on. Few people were talking about adaptation to climate change. However, after visiting other sessions it became clear that “adaptation” is the part of climate change that is interacting and growing roots in other biological and social disciplines. Adaptation is the heating branch of climate change! Dealing with uncertainty While some climate change scientists try to work their way out from climatic uncertainty by measure and re-measuring it, others have decided to embrace it and are working on how adapt to it. It will be difficult and particularly lengthy to explain the minutes of the “hidden discussion about adaptation and uncertainty” coming out of the different thematic sessions. Instead, I will leave you with some of the key ideas that were presented in the words of two of the speakers visiting Tropentag: Dr. Carla Roncoli (Emroy University) and Dr. Sally Brooks (University of Sussex). “On the margin, climate uncertainty will have a higher impact due to communication limitations” … “For farmers in Africa, farming is about what kind of risk to take” … “It is important to understand uncertainty from the farmers’ point of view!” … “Uncertainties can be reduced, quantified & communicated. Using information for adaptation is more efficient than use it for modelling” (Dr. Roncoli) “Marginal people may have the answers about how to shape agricultural systems in order to deal with climate change”…“Vulnerability is connected to inequality when talking about agriculture and climate change in the tropics” (Dr. Brooks)


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