Attribution of extreme weather events in Africa: A preliminary exploration of the science and policy implications
Otto, F., Boyd, E., Jones, R., Cornforth, R., James, R., Parker, H. L. and Allen, M. (2015) Attribution of extreme weather events in Africa: A preliminary exploration of the science and policy implications. Climatic Change, 132 (4). pp. 531-543. ISSN 0165-0009
To link to this article DOI: 10.1007/s10584-015-1432-0
At the most recent session of the Conference of the Parties (COP19) in Warsaw (November 2013) the Warsaw international mechanism for loss and damage associated with climate change impacts was established under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The mechanism aims at promoting the implementation of approaches to address loss and damage associated with the adverse effects of climate change. Specifically, it aims to enhance understanding of risk management approaches to address loss and damage. Understanding risks associated with impacts due to highly predictable (slow onset) events like sea-level rise is relatively straightforward whereas assessing the effects of climate change on extreme weather events and their impacts is much more difficult. However, extreme weather events are a significant cause of loss of life and livelihoods, particularly in vulnerable countries and communities in Africa. The emerging science of probabilistic event attribution is relevant as it provides scientific evidence on the contribution of anthropogenic climate change to changes in risk of extreme events. It thus provides the opportunity to explore scientifically-backed assessments of the human influence on such events. However, different ways of framing attribution questions can lead to very different assessments of change in risk. Here we explain the methods of, and implications of different approaches to attributing extreme weather events with a focus on Africa. Crucially, it demonstrates that defining the most appropriate attribution question to ask is not a science decision but needs to be made in dialogue with those stakeholders who will use the answers.
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