CCCA is committed to create new multisectoral, integrated, practical policy advice projects on complex, multi-layered, multi-faceted challenges caused by climate change.
Below are some examples of multisectoral projects, carried out at least in part by members and partners of the Consortium. These projects give a sense of what future CCCA projects will be able to provide.
Climate change and land subsidence in the Mekong Delta
The low-lying Mekong Delta is home to 20 million people and produces food for almost 200 million. It is a key part of a developing economy within a physically and ecologically complicated environment. The delta, currently 1-2 metres above sea level, is also characterized by rapid urbanisation and fragmented water governance. And as CCCA partners have recently shown, the region is also undergoing serious levels of land subsidence.
Land subsidence, a relatively slow process, often gets noticed only when major damage is already occurring. Applying an advanced 3D groundwater model and a geomechanical model to the entire delta, researchers from Utrecht University and Deltares recently created a map showing land subsidence due to groundwater extraction. The delta now appears to be subsiding several centimetres per year, adding to a global sea level rise of millimetres per year. The combined effects include salinisation, more extensive flooding and coastal erosion. Urgent action will be required to save this fertile area.
To reduce subsidence, groundwater extraction should be replaced by economical use of surface water sources. That in turn will require adapted groundwater management policy and regulation, critical reviews of agricultural and aquaculture practices (e.g. the number of crops per year or shits from agriculture to sustainable aquaculture), and robust local fresh water infrastructures. Vitens-Evides International, another project partner, has proposed a network of pipe lines and water treatment plants.
The project is a joint effort of Utrecht University, Deltares and TNO (part of Utrecht CASTEL) in close cooperation with Can Tho University and the Division of Water Resources Planning and Investigation for the South of Vietnam (DWRPIS) of the Vietnamese Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE). It received funding from the NWO programme ‘Urbanizing deltas of the World’.
Climate change in the high mountains of Asia
The greater Himalayas provide a vital water supply for over 1.5 billion people. Climate change will have great impacts on Asia’s main rivers. Apart from serving as a source of fresh drinking water, they are often involved in natural disasters such as landslides, floods and glacier lake outbursts. An accurate understanding of the Himalayan water cycle is urgently needed. Researchers from Utrecht University are now projecting future changes using innovative tools such as drones to understand the melting behaviour of debris-covered glacier tongues and observe climate variables at very high altitudes. They have shown that even if the world manages to cap warming to 1.5 °C, nearly 40 percent of all glaciers in high-mountain Asia will have disappeared by 2100. Most climate models project an increase in monsoon strength. In the future, South Asia will have to adapt to more extremes and major seasonal shifts.
The project’s output feeds into HI-AWARE and HICAP projects of the International center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD). Funded by two prestigious ERC grants and NWO, ICIMOD has worked with CICERO and the UNEP center GRID Arendal to create an interactive water and climate atlas.
Climate change and air pollution
Climate change is likely to increase air pollution because it enhances atmospheric chemistry leading to the formation of fine particles and ozone pollution. Also, the use of biomass fuel for the sake of a more carbon neutral energy sector may actually increase air pollution.
Knowledge about health effects of air pollution comes from large-scale international epidemiology studies, several of which have been recently carried out and coordinated by IRAS at the Utrecht University. Notably, the European study of cohorts for air pollution effects (ESCAPE) has produced a wealth of findings relating different types of air pollution to health effects occurring throughout the life course. A notable finding was that air pollution reduces birth weight which may have various adverse health consequences later in life. This effect was already observed at concentrations well below existing legal standards for air pollution. All-cause mortality and lung cancer were also increased by air pollution; the latter finding played a significant role in the recent determination of IARC that air pollution and especially particles in the air are proven carcinogens to human beings.
Adaptation to air pollution increases takes various forms and shapes. First of all, reduction of fossil fuel combustion produces benefits for both human health and climate change. Replacement of fossil fuel my biomass fuel, on the other hand, may produce climate benefits but also health damages; more work is needed to establish the right balance between the two. The use of personal protection is another adaptation measure which has developed into a huge market in especially high-pollution middle-to-high-income countries such as China. Investigators connected to CCCA are engaged in establishing the health and environmental benefits of using air purifiers in homes and buildings. Yet another way to adapt to air pollution is by providing personalised advice based on real-time local air pollution data transmitted by smart phone to end users, allowing them to change their behaviour and minimise air pollution exposure in the process.
Wind erosion in Sahelian Africa
The Sahelian zone of Africa is the semi-arid region just south of the Sahara desert, where annual rainfall ranges from 20cm in the North to 60cm in the South. The Sahel is home to 135 million people, who largely depend on subsistence agriculture. Difficult circumstances include frequent droughts and desertification. Climate scenarios predict lower precipitation and higher temperatures during the growing season. The main desertification process is wind erosion, which destroys crop seedlings and causes further degradation of already poor Sahelian soils. Previous solutions to control wind erosion, such as mulching and using wind breaks, have been promoted but were not widely adopted by farmers.
Researchers studied wind erosion using field measurements and wind speed and sediment transport models fed by remote sensing and field observations. Participatory field work helped design a new strategy for wind erosion control, using native Sahelian bushes and trees to create so-called Parklands. Regenerating and incorporating this natural vegetation in agricultural fields reduces wind erosion significantly with trees slowing down wind speeds and shrubs stabilizing the soil. A spatial model was used to optimize the number of trees and shrubs per hectare of land. Parklands also contributed to better micro climates, higher crop yields and carbon sequestration, while trees also generated useful by-products. The project’s output is used in Sahel re-greening projects by NGOs.
Climate services for Indonesian farmers
The European Climate Assessment and Data portal was designed by KNMI for climate studies using routine meteorological observations. The database has been very useful in world regions where limited high-quality climate data is available.
The Southeast Asian Climate Assessment & Dataset (SACA&D) led to a multiyear collaboration with Indonesian hydrometeorological authorities and Dutch institutions including Deltares and WUR, which resulted in a project (G4INDO) that assists the Government of Indonesia in providing insurance to farmers. Better seasonal forecast information will increase crop yields lead and help warn against floods and droughts. G4INDO integrates remote sensing technology (radar and optical), hydrological data of river basins, crop growth models, small farmer insurance products and claim processing, and socio-economic monitoring and evaluation using measures such as income levels, inter-gender relations, and farming practices.
Thanks to G4INDO, 200,000 rice farmers in three East Java districts will receive vital insurance contracts.