Rainfall systems and mechanisms controlling the spatially inhomogeneous rainfall variability over the winter rainfall zone of South Africa

This thesis explores spatio-temporal variability and change of rainfall in the winter rainfall zone over the past ~100 years in cleaned and gap-filled weather station observations. The contribution of weather system and synoptic state types to the observed seasonal patterns of variability and change are quantified. The implications for potential predictability of rainfall at seasonal to multi-decadal timescales are considered.

Student: Willem Stefaan Conradie

Supervisors: Bruce Hewitson and Piort Wolski

The role of values in the production of climate science for decision support

This research aims to bring pertinent debates in philosophy of science on values to bear on the climate science domain. One question my PhD intends to answer is: where and how should social values influence climate science? It answers this question by applying two arguments in philosophy of science on values to decision relevant climate science to illustrate, through a range of climate science examples, some of the waves in which non-epistemic value judgments can legitimately influence scientific choices that climate scientists make.

One critical issue that has arisen through this research is the presence of conflicting values and how this plays out in disagreements about suitable methodological choices. Extreme event attribution research seeks to determine whether particular extreme weather and climate events (such as a flood, a heat waves, etc.) are related to rising greenhouse gas concentrations. Recently, a debate has arisen over the introduction of a new method for extreme event attribution, which – unlike traditional methods – prioritizes avoiding false negatives (i.e. rejecting conclusions that are actually true ) over avoiding false positives (i.e. accepting conclusions that are actually false) Following work by Lloyd and Oreskes (2018),This research will show how this debate can be related to a value conflict between personal, institutional, and social values. It will explore potential reasons for why such a value conflict has arisen and how the conflict might be resolved. Preliminary ways forward involve considering similar choices about inductive risk faced by professionals in other fields, such as medicine. This research will compare and contrast the risks faced by climate scientists, both personal and institutional, with such professionals in other fields, and will consider the role that moral obligations might play in resolving the conflict.

Student: Jessica Lee

Supervisors: Bruce Hewitson, Wendy Parker and Jack Ritchie

Developing a Comprehensive Monitoring and Evaluation Framework for Water Resources Management Policy in the face of deep Uncertainty: A Systems Thinking Perspective

Evidence-based water policy is bedevilled by the challenge of deep uncertainty. This is worsened by the complexity presented by the interdependent/ interconnectedness nature of the water resources management system with other social, economic and environmental systems, with a greater risk to dampen or amplify water policy performance. As such, water policy performance is unlikely to follow a linear pattern of change and therefore evaluation approaches designed to track linear logic of policy performance such as theories of change approaches or logical framework analyses, at least in their traditional form, may be limited. In developing a comprehensive monitoring and evaluation framework for water resources management policy, this study attempts to unpack the challenge of deep uncertainty and complexity and how it affects the credibility of the evidence generated to inform evidence-based and adaptive water policy decisions in South Africa.

Student: Sandile Ngcamphalala

Supervisors: Olivier Crespo and Johann Louw

Exploring the role of transdisciplinary research in responding to complex, climate-related problems in Southern African cities

Transdisciplinary Research (TDR) aims to support co-production of knowledge and mutual learning across science and society to deal with complex problems, such as climate change in southern African cities. Simple concepts of learning, rooted in binary or deficit models, are often applied to TDR, limiting our understanding of how such processes support new learning cultures based on relationships, productive differences, reflexivity, and negotiations. This thesis aims to contribute to a deeper understanding of how TDR supports learning, particularly to respond to climate risks in southern African cities. Qualitative research methods combined with social psychology theories provide a new lens through which learning, as an evolutionary, dialectic process between a variety of knowledge holders, is explored.

Student: Alice McClure

Supervisors: Gina Ziervogel and Zarina Patel

Climate Resilience of South African Maize Value Chain

Steven Arowolo’s thesis focuses on the South African maize sector, and it explores factors that could contribute to its resilience in the face of climate change and extreme weather-related events. He further investigates the existing support structures within the maize value chain. Adopting a food systems approach, he obtained relevant data and information from key players within the maize sector. Analysing the maize value chain assets, he found out that human assets would be the most important asset of the future as far as building climate resilience within the maize sector is concerned. He developed a schematic framework that emphasises the significance of maize value chain actors (human assets) in enhancing the climate resilience of the South African maize sector. He concludes that human assets would matter most in the future in building a climate-resilient maize sector in South Africa, and that continuous learning and skills development should be prioritised.

Student: Steven Alaba Arowolo

Supervisors: Peter Johnston

Role of local and indigenous knowledge on increasing community resilience and adaptation strategies to climate variability challenges, risks and uncertainties for agriculture based livelihoods in Chiredzi District, Zimbabwe.

The impetus for this research stems from the global recognition of indigenous and local practices for climate variability resilience and adaptation (UNCCC, 2013). A growing concern has emerged on the use of local and indigenous knowledge (LIK) as a grass root adaptive strategy to climate variability challenges in world’s poor economies. LIKS encompasses dynamic and culture specific knowledge, practices and beliefs and all of which are significantly resourceful in increasing resilience to climate variability effects at local community levels. Given financial constraints in Zimbabwe, evolving a set of tools tailored by local communities is the most viable solution to adapt to climate variability challenges, thus increasing resilience of these communities to cope with the effects. Therefore, this research intends to identify several local, indigenous and traditional knowledge and practices, analysing their applications to climate variability adaptation and resilience-building at community level. More emphasis will be on fostering these systems given the social, economic, traditional and political set up of the study area (Chiredzi District). The research would be based on case studies encompassing five thematic sectors – water, forestry, rural livelihoods, crop production/food security and livestock production and traditional social institutions (role of local governance on promoting, advance and transform LIK). All examples of LIK and practices making the basis of this research would be drawn from 4 wards in Chiredzi District. The cases are selected based on a) the traditional practices of indigenous groups and cultures b) the relevance of these practices for climate variability adaptation and c) their potential to scale up. Overall selection will also be based on their relevance to Zimbabwe’s climate and development long term adaptation strategies and their importance in meeting the needs and priorities of indigenous and local communities. Primary data and information for the study will be collected through in-depth household surveys (questionnaire and interviews), key informant interviews, field observations. District and ward level stakeholder workshops and focus group discussions (FGDs) would also form part of the data collection process. The research is using the expansive learning theory where communities/smallholder framers expand their local and indigenous knowledge and practices to increase their adaptive capacity to climate variability challenges and shocks. Assumption is communities learn from their existing knowledge and practices, expand them for better future use and making informed decision during time of climate extremes.

Student: Luckson Zvobgo

Supervisors: Peter Johnston