Unintended consequences of climate change mitigation for African river basins

Matteo Giuliani, Jonathan R. Lamontagne, Mohamad I. Hejazi, Patrick M. Reed & Andrea Castelletti

Department of Energy, Office of Science, Earth & Environmental Systems Modeling Program Acknowledged Support: No, other Non-DOE EESM source of support

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41558-021-01262-9


Emerging climate change mitigation policies focus on the implementation of global measures relying on carbon prices to attain rapid emissions reductions, with limited consideration for the impacts of global policies at local scales. Here, we use the Zambezi Watercourse in southern Africa to demonstrate how local dynamics across interconnected water–energy–food systems are impacted by mitigation policies. Our results indicate that climate change mitigation policies related to land-use change emissions can have negative side effects on local water demands, generating increased risks for failures across all the components of the water–energy–food systems in the Zambezi Watercourse. Analogous vulnerabilities could impact many river basins in southern and western Africa. It is critical to connect global climate change mitigation policies to local dynamics for a better exploration of the full range of possible future scenarios while supporting policy makers in prioritizing sustainable mitigation and adaptation solutions.

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