Better Climate Predictions, More Resilient Agriculture

Ongoing changes in the earth’s climate will have broad effects on the planet’s food and water supplies. Those effects will be particularly dramatic in Africa, whose largely rural populations depend primarily on regional agriculture for their survival. In order to predict future water availability and crop success, researchers need to evaluate not just average changes but also the risk of extremes. Africa’s dependence on rain-fed agriculture leads to great risks to the food supply due to climatic extremes.

Susan Solomon, of the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences and Department of Chemistry, and Kenneth Strzepek ’75, SM ’77, PhD ’80 of the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change, are principal investigators on a project to apply a broad range of 21st-century climate models to Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda, as well as other parts of Africa. These models already indicate that much of Africa is experiencing climates that are statistically different from those of the past. Titled “Advancing Water and Food Sustainability through Improved Understanding of Uncertainties in Climate Change and Climate Variability,” and funded by a seed grant from the Abdul Latif Jameel World Water and Food Security Lab, the two-year project will identify a set of responses that, if enacted, have the potential to dramatically increase the resilience of the region’s agriculture in the face of climate change.