Contemporary conversations about climate change and development in Africa suffer from a scale problem. Generally speaking, these conversations go one of two ways. Some talk about “African climate change”, speaking in sweeping terms about such impacts as lost agricultural production or increased disease burden. Others focus on potential local impacts, sometimes scaling to national impacts. Neither of these foci facilitates thinking about climate change as an integration issue for Africa.
- There needs to be a concerted effort to create a transparent policy environment in which the potential impacts of climate change might be used as a lever to bring parties to the table in productive discussions about trade. While this will not resolve all of the uncertainties about the policy future with regard to climate change, it will create an environment in which the impacts of climate change, whatever they might be, can be productively addressed.
- More serious attention needs to be paid to existing climate science in policy discussions. While the policymaker need not be an expert in climate science, the long-range future of nearly every development sector will be impacted by a changing climate. Policymakers need to understand the scope and nature of these impacts, as well as the uncertainties associated with the science.
- A significant investment in basic research on indigenous livelihoods and adaptation decision-making is needed. The broad panel surveys of livelihoods activities that exist for much of the continent are often very unreliable. Further, the information they contain merely catalogues what people are doing, not why. Without a serious push to better understand why people do what they do, we cannot productively imagine what they will be doing under possible climate futures.