How a future Day Zero can be avoided

Global action to limit human-induced warming could give Mzansi enough time to secure enough water to sustain its people. Otherwise, according to researchers, climate shifts by the middle of the next decade may well make Day Zero situations more common

The drought Cape Town experienced in 2018 shows that a Day Zero scenario can happen again, even in other countries with similar conditions. Supplied/Food For Mzansi

The drought Cape Town experienced in 2018 shows that a Day Zero scenario can happen again, even in other countries with similar conditions. Supplied/Food For Mzansi

Cape Town, South Africa’s second most populated city, came dangerously close to running out of water in 2018 when reservoirs were drained a the multi-year drought. Since then, Stanford University experts found that climate change made this catastrophic drought five to six times more likely. They have cautioned that many more Day Zero events may occur in the future in countries with comparable conditions.

In the coming decades, a better understanding of likely surface air temperature and precipitation trends in South Africa and other dry, populated areas around the world could enable decision-makers to pursue science-based climate mitigation and adaptation measures to reduce the risk of future Day Zero events.

Researchers from the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change, the International Food Policy Research Institute and the CGIAR have developed modelled projections of 21st-century changes in seasonal surface air temperature and precipitation for South Africa that account for uncertainties in how earth and socioeconomic systems behave and co-evolve.

These estimates, which were published in the journal Climatic Vary, illustrate how temperature and precipitation in three sub-national areas of South Africa — western, central, and eastern — are projected to change under a variety of global climate mitigation policy scenarios.

Measures must be taken

In a business-as-usual global climate policy scenario in which no emissions or climate targets are set or met, the projections show that for all three regions, there’s a greater-than 50% likelihood that mid-century temperatures will increase threefold over the current climate’s range of variability. But the risk of these mid-century temperature increases is effectively eliminated through more aggressive climate targets.

“Our analysis provides risk-based evidence on the benefits of climate mitigation policies as well as unavoidable climate impacts that will need to be addressed through adaptive measures,” says MIT Joint Program deputy director C. Adam Schlosser, the lead author of the study.

“Global action to limit human-induced warming could give South Africa enough time to secure sufficient water supplies to sustain its population. Otherwise, anticipated climate shifts by the middle of the next decade may well make Day Zero situations more common.”

To read the full story via FoodForAfrika.com, click here.

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