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West Africa is very vulnerable to climate change and the reasons proffered include over-dependence on rain fed agriculture, weak governance, inadequate economic and technological development as well as more technical reasons such as the fact that the Global Circulation Models (GCMs) used in simulating the regional patterns of climate are too coarse to reliably project the impacts of climate change in West African.
Transforming settlements into sustainable and climate change resilient human habitats is on the front burner in this century. The World Bank’s 2009 Urban Strategy highlighted Developing Countries as the focus of this transformation that could be regarded as a challenge and a huge opportunity. While cities are responsible for growing global energy consumption expected to rise above two-thirds, hence increasing GHG emission levels (IEA 2008; in rural areas, humans’ livelihood and food security are impacted by the consequence of increasing GHG that manifests as an increase in temperature.
In 2016, the United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) highlighted the critical challenges of planning and management of settlements (cities, towns and villages) as drivers of sustainable development, a guide to the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. West Africa has highly populated capital cities along its vast coastland, a number of which are at risk as sea level rises and coastal erosion and flooding increase. Similarly, major highly populated cities are located in the hinterland and are at risk as less frequent rainfall events could lead to dry conditions, which make human comfort more expensive to maintain. The bleak picture does not end there. Due to the high population, the spread of pandemics and epidemics such as COVID 19 are a huge public health challenge.
Cities in more habitable locations are a “magnet” attracting a steady flow of humans in search of conducive environments to thrive in. How do we transform our overcrowded cities into sustainable cities that mainstream climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies into their operations? How do we improve on rural environments such that there is minimal push towards the overcrowded cities? WASCAL Doctoral Research Programme on Climate Change and Human Habitat seeks to answer these questions and more, as it combines these two trending key foci of the research community, not only by providing a platform for young West African researchers to participate in global cutting edge research through assessments and modeling of impacts of climate change in human habitat, and vice versa, with the 5 key foci being:
- Settlement Dynamics and Modeling: the size, form, design, and expansion of settlements creates unique micro-climates that affect variables including temperature and wind and have implications on GHG emissions;
- Housing and Green Space Management: Urban Heat Island (UHI) and air quality effects are minimized by the presence of green space (urban parks, gardens, forestry, agriculture etc) in cities and around houses;
- Climate Change, Energy Systems and Settlements: growth, poverty reduction, air quality improvement and jobs creation can be boosted by sustainable infrastructure powered by renewable energy, thus building low-carbon, climate-resilient economies for the future;
- Transport Planning and Sustainable Mobility: innovative technologies, modal shift and other strategies aimed at decreasing the emissions from the transportation sector;
- Rural and Urban migration issues: novel, innovative and comprehensive solutions are required for the multidimensional challenges created by migration induced slow onset events such as sea-level rise, desertification, ocean acidification, air pollution etc