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Can the extreme heatwave in Madagascar awaken the Climate Summit?
Extreme heat hit Madagascar in October this year, prompting a number of international experts, including our own Dr. Rondrotiana Barimalala, to conduct a study that was cited in The Guardian. The result was clear: the heatwave is a result of human-induced CO2 emissions.
Gunn Janne Myrseth, NORCE
Dr. Rondrotiana Barimalala is a climate scientist at NORCE, originally from Madagascar but now living and working in Bergen, Norway.
- A new Climate Summit is now underway, where the UN and developed countries usually make commitments to reduce CO2 emissions and provide support for adaptation and resilience for the most vulnerable. I personally hope that these commitments are followed through, as the damages and consequences of climate change cannot wait for us to continue negotiating and be ready to take action.
The local effects of climate change can never be addressed at a local level alone. It requires a global effort. In a warmer world, it is expected that the intensity and frequency of extreme events will increase, and the least developed countries, such as those south of the Sahara in Africa, are most vulnerable to these consequences. It is therefore important that the international community and all governments around the world take significant steps to become more resilient. The work we do at NORCE contributes to such resilience for countries south of the Sahara in Africa, but we also recognize that what we do is just a drop in the ocean. Scaling up and sustainability in these efforts are needed, says climate scientist Dr. Rondrotiana Barimalala.
Extremely hot in Madagascar
Barimalala came to NORCE almost two years ago.
-I saw that you were looking for a researcher to work on African climate," says Barimalala. Barimalala applied for and got the job and came to Bergen.
Before that, she had a long research career with stays in Africa, the USA, and Europe. What started with studying physics at the University of Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar, continued with climate science in Trieste, Italy, where she studied at the International Center for Theoretical Physics, then worked in Cape Town, South Africa before moving to NORCE . Since her arrival at NORCE in January 2022, she has been part of our international team of around 60 climate scientists. The involvement in the study related to the heatwave in Madagascar recently came up when she attended the Open Science Conference by the World Climate Research Program in Rwanda last month.
-We saw the need to scientifically investigate what happened in Madagascar in October," says Barimalala and goes on;
-Normally, it is around 23 degrees Celsius in October, but this year we had more than ten days with an average temperature of 25 degrees with some densely populated places reaching up to 32 degrees. This is the first time at least since 1950 that it has been so hot here at this time."
Rondro herself comes from a small town an hour away from Madagascar's capital. She knows her country well. There is a lack of clean water in the country, it also has one of the world's lowest child survival rates. With very young children being particularly vulnerable to extreme heat, these young lives are even more at risk. Madagascar has a high degree of informal settlement and unplanned urbanization. Large parts of the population are therefore especially vulnerable to heat exposure. Factors such as urban poverty, a large workforce in informal economies, and loss of productivity/income during hot days lead to significant consequences. There are also no heat preparedness plans, no plans or protocols for early response, or comprehensive early warning systems. This means limited preparedness for heatwaves. Investments in extreme heat forecasts, warnings, and response capacities are the most urgent needs for Madagascar to better adapt to a rapidly changing climate with increased temperatures and extreme weather events not previously experienced.
In Madagascar, less than half of the population has access to electricity and clean water, which means the majority of the population has no means to cope with extreme heat. Heatwaves, which we already know from other times of the year, have directly caused health problems for children.
Rondro is now working on several projects, starting with the NORAD project on climate services and information for Malawi and Ethiopia. She is also closely involved in the EU project CONFER, led by NORCE. Recently, CONFER gathered with local participants in Kenya to work on building local knowledge on the use of products that CONFER is developing in Eastern Africa.