Is it going to get wetter or drier in Uganda?
Seminar Room 1, Newton Institute
The humanitarian and development sector is wrestling with the issue of climate change. Many of our beneficiaries in Africa, Asia and Latin America are reporting changes in weather and climate; yet, are these changes a result of natural perturbations in climate or a manifestation of anthropogenic climate change? Unless we know what we are dealing with we may respond to the threat of a changing climate inappropriately and, thereby, create vulnerability rather than reduce it – the aim of our work. We therefore need answers from the scientists. Understandably, it is impossible for climate scientists to say whether any single weather event can be attributed to climate change but we do need to know whether, for example, the current drought in East Africa is a result of climate change or a natural part of the cyclical climate of that region. If we cannot answer this ‘simple’ question then one has to ask whether climate modelling can offer anything of value to those in the humanitarian and development sector who are trying to support adaptation strategies to climate change. We may as well look at past and current trends and adapt to what we see rather than base our response strategies on abstract representations of the future which are fraught with uncertainty – climate models. Scientists are expert at saying what they cannot say about climate change but they are notoriously bad at saying what can be said about the impacts of climate change. As such, those dealing with the impacts of climate change are starting to question the role of climate science in their work – does it really have a role to play in helping people adapt to climate change? If so, what is this role? This paper will ask the simple question: ‘Is it going to get wetter or drier in Uganda’? It is hoped that the answer to this question will help the climate scientists appreciate more fully the challenges faced by the humanitarian and development sector as it responds to what appears to be an increasing incidence of ‘strange’ weather.