The Role of Risk and Vulnerability Science Centres in Enhancing the Resilience of Local Government and Local Communities to Climate Change in South Africa
Climate change and variability negatively affect Africa the most, this is particularly because of their dependence on sectors and livelihoods that are largely dependent on climatic and environmental factors (such as agriculture), high levels of poverty, low levels of human, social and physical capital. South Africa in particular is susceptible to changes in climate due to its location at the southern-most point of Africa and the rich terrestrial and marine biodiversity that support many livelihoods in the country, make responding to climate change a priority for the government. Academia in South Africa has played a key role in climate change science developing down scaled climate projections used in planning and responding to climate change impacts. However, the interpretation, utilisation as well as the integration of climate science in planning at all levels of government has lagged behind, especially at local municipal level. This paper assesses the role that has been played by Risk and Vulnerability Science Centres in promoting resilience of local government and local communities to climate change. The Risk and Vulnerability Science Centres are one mechanism that has been developed to assist in bridging this gap, by providing a link between scientists and local governments and communities. Three Risk and Vulnerability Science Centres are hosted in three previously disadvantaged universities i.e., the University of Limpopo, University of Fort Hare and Walter Sisulu University. The centres present a great opportunity for the interpretation, packaging and dissemination of climate and other scientific data to local government and communities. They are also well placed to co-produce knowledge as they can conduct research to fill in the knowledge gaps identified by local government and local communities, however they have struggled to perform as expected especially addressing the knowledge gaps. The paper explores the challenges and the opportunities faced by Risk and Science Centres in understanding local level climate change risk and vulnerability and the complex systems in which local governments and community operate. An understanding of this would help design appropriate response options in order to build the resilience of local government and local communities to climate change. The centres have provided an opportunity for the capacity building of students and could play a key role in facilitating participatory platforms for social learning and co-production of knowledge at various levels of government that integrate both indigenous and experiential knowledge. Challenges experienced include lack of commitment by government officials to integrate the research recommendations into policy practice and lack of opportunities to present research in local government forums to inform development planning.
KeywordsClimate change Local government Universities Risk and vulnerability science centres South Africa
We would like to thank the substantial information that we received from the key informants at the science centres which was required to write this paper.
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