Climate Change Adaptation Division
What we do
We lead and co-ordinate research and communication regarding South Africa's response to the biodiversity impacts of climate change. We do scientific work, and also provide communication and policy products to support world-leading efforts by the national Department of Environmental Affairs in climate change responses.
Why study climate change?
An emergency in slow motion
Human-caused climate change could trigger the extinction of between 20% and 30% of the world's species from mid-21st century if society fails to curb greenhouse gas emissions urgently. Ironically, this is a slow-motion emergency. This is because of the initially sluggish way that climate responds to gradually increasing greenhouse gas emissions, and further lags between climate shifts and the responses of wild species. We may misjudge the urgency of the environmental challenge unless we improve our ability to project and anticipate the impacts. We may also suffer losses unless we develop strategies to avoid and adapt to the emerging changes.
South African biodiversity is vulnerable
Initial assessments show that the climatically suitable area for many vulnerable biomes of South Africa may shrink by up to 55%. Most severe impacts are projected in the western part of South Africa. Hundreds of species are identified to be at risk in the mega-diverse Fynbos and Succulent Karoo Biomes. Other biomes are not immune. There is thus an urgent need to assess the implications of climate change on South Africa's biodiversity assets.
The optimal climate for Succulent Karoo Biome (darker shades) today (A), in 2050 (B) and 2080 (C).
Our activities include:
- monitoring and understanding ecosystem and population processes as they indicate responses to a changing climate
- investigating and understanding carbon dynamics, particularly in relation to environmental changes
- investigating and understanding climate change impacts and vulnerability
- informing and providing support for policymakers on adaptation to climate change impacts
- contributing to synthesis activities that inform policy and communicate to a range of stakeholders, with key roles in developing Long Term Adaptation Scenarios (LTAS) reports and serving as South Africa's National Implementing Entity (NIE) to the Adaptation Fund
We currently focus on the globally unique mega-diverse winter-rainfall biomes (Fynbos and Succulent Karoo) and on the Nama-Karoo and Savanna Biomes in the summer rainfall region. We also collaborate widely internationally with a number of research groups in southern Africa, Australia, Europe, the United Kingdom and the USA.