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COP 27: African states must embrace Data to combat Climate Change

The 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference, more commonly referred to as COP27, will be the 27th United Nations Climate Change conference, to be held from 6 to 18 November 2022 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.

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By Amit Banka

Data democratization is increasingly gaining prominence, especially in developing countries. As the world is faced with a changing climate, data could be instrumental for mitigation and adaptation measures.

The African continent contributes a mere 3 percent in carbon emissions, the continent continues to be vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

It witnesses an impact on agriculture – the backbone of Africa, as well as other weather-sensitive activities like fishing and herding – leading to a loss of lives and livelihoods.

Climate change is also contributing to issues like low ecosystem productivity, water scarcity, sea level rise, droughts and floods. It’s making certain areas less livable while others more attractive. Lake Chad has lost 90% of its surface area since the 1970s and 1980s, creating nearly 5 million climate refugees moving from Nigeria, Niger, Chad, and Cameroon.

According to the UN Environmental Program, if the warming surpasses 2 degree celsius, the agricultural yield of sub-Saharan Africa could reduce by 10%. These changes in land-use patterns and soil, if unchecked, can cause migration of people en masse and have serious socio-economic implications.

Africa is reported to have only one-eighth of weather stations which are recommended by World Meteorological Organization. Lack of climate data means inconsistent forecasts and non-existent early-warning signs for natural disasters. Scarcity in government and private funding, technological infrastructure is among the biggest factors for this data inequity.

In the scientific community, gaps in climate data have prevented researchers from understanding the full extent of climate change impacts in the vulnerable regions of Africa. It’s also a major deterrent in gaining funding for fighting climate change by international organizations like United Nations.

Faced with a changing climate, Africa has a massive opportunity to build climate resilient and low-carbon economies.

The African Development Bank Group (AFDBG) survey reveals that investments in nature could reduce climate migration by 30% in the Lake Victoria region and 60% in West Africa.

These investments can be channeled on areas like healthcare, education, innovation, agriculture – nature-based solutions can boost the economy for the better. For instance, 600 million Africans lack electricity, so the continent has the chance to build its renewable energy resources to meet the requirements.

Some successful examples are already proving our point. This possible solution, which has only been tested in rural Kenya, shows potential in increasing data collection in the continent. The non-profit is aiming to install inexpensive weather stations to create a network that can share the data to strengthen its weather forecasts.

There are several unknowns in this project, including sharing of information between public-private stakeholders. But it’s an important initiative.

We need solutions like these to increase climate data at the national and international level. In a world driven by digitization, climate data can be very handy for future climate predictions for farmers, and other vulnerable groups.

That’s when a solution like WeNaturalists.com where nature professionals including rangers, climate scientists, wildlife trainers share stories of their daily life.

This knowledge exchange among the community is extremely valuable. It’s a massive opportunity for researchers to extract data from indigenous communities and share it with the world for global to local solutions.

Conference of Parties (COP27) meeting being held in Africa is a huge opportunity for stakeholders to bring forth this issue. The focus on climate data informing well-targeted policies couldn’t be more urgent. According to ADBG, the continent needs investments over $3 trillion in mitigation and adaptation by 2030 to implement its climate action commitments.

The framework laid down by UNEP to meet the target includes actions that increase environmental and socio-economic benefits, creating climate-smart jobs and opportunities for the youth, and investing in science and knowledge to inform policy decisions.

The targets can only be achieved if we build a decarbonized economy. In order to deliver on it, we need to make investments in renewable energy, green infrastructure and focus on restoring ecosystems including forests, rivers, etc. We must also aim to reduce the reliance on industries like plastic which have a significant carbon footprint.

Most of all, a technology-led transformation in climate action is the need of the hour. This can only be possible through gathering and processing data from every corner of the world, enabling climate action that leads to a nature-positive world.

The role of Africa in the CO2 emissions might be low, but their contribution in the climate fight will change the outcome for the better. After all, none of us can get there, unless everybody gets there.

Amit Banka is the Founder and CEO  of WeNaturalists.

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