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Afghanistan: Climate Change Science Perspectives

Submitted by Julia Barrott 8th May 2018 12:43
Image from front page

Image from the front page of the report.


Climate change is having serious impacts on Afghanistan’s people and ecosystems, making it among the world’s most vulnerable countries to climate change. Even under the most optimistic scenarios for limited global greenhouse gas emissions, Afghanistan will have to adapt to steep temperature increases and changes in precipitation patterns.

Recognizing these threats, UN Environment and the National Environmental Protection Agency developed these new climate change projections in order to fill the existing gap of scientifically robust climate data in Afghanistan. It is hoped that his information will help mainstream climate change into Afghanistan’s development process as a vital step towards mitigating climate change. 

This report* provides describes the country’s most up-to-date and detailed climate change projections. The report is the first of its kind and puts valuable information in the hands of the Afghanistan’s leaders, decision-makers, and environmental groups to help build Afghanistan’s resilience to climate change.

It includes documentation of:

  • Observed changes in Afganistan's climate (temperature and precipitation)
  • Climate projections for Afganistan (temperature and precipitation)
  • Validation of this data (reanalysis data and climate model projections)
  • Statistical methods used

*Key messages from the report are provided below. See the full text (download from right-hand column) for much more detail.

Figure 1 from page 7 of the full text: Climate Regions of Afghanistan Used for this Analysis [in this report]. 

Key Messages

  • Global climate change will likely have severe impacts in Afghanistan.
    • Even an “optimistic” scenario with limited Green House Gas (GHG) emissions (RCP 4.5) is projected to lead, with high certainty, to strong warming. Climate change projections for Afghanistan show a temperature increase of around 1.4°C until 2050 and stabilization at the end of the century at around 2.6°C.
    • Under a “pessimistic,” business-as-usual scenario with unchecked emissions, temperature rise is projected to become extreme with a mean increase of 2°C until 2050 and reaching more than 6°C by the end of the 21st century.
  • The temperature increase shows regional differences with the strongest increases in the Central Highlands and the Hindukush regions.
    • These findings are in line with historical temperate trends of over 1.8°C since the middle of the 20th century, though in the past the country’s South experienced the strongest warming.
  • Precipitation projections are more uncertain and the differences between scenarios is less distinct, with no clear trend for annual precipitation for the past and the future.
    • However, most models predict a distinct decrease in precipitation during the spring season, which are the most important months for rain-fed agriculture. For the relevant regions in the East, North and Central Highlands, these precipitation decreases are estimated at around -30% to nearly -40 % for the past.
    • Future projections show decreases in these relevant regions of around -20% until 2100. The trends for winter precipitation are also significant, but not systematic. Heavy precipitation (95th percentile) shows no statistically significant trend for the past and the future.

In sum, the climate signals for Afghanistan are alarming, particularly with regard to temperature increase. Even with limited GHG emissions, Afghanistan’s ecosystems, agriculture, economy, biodiversity, health, and food security will face big challenges. The changes caused by unchecked GHG emissions will be considerably more extreme and lead to unpredictable changes in the aforementioned systems and sectors in Afghanistan. In the face of an already existing adaptation deficit in the country, Afghanistan urgently needs enhancement of adaptation measures and strategies in all sectors, and a strong global effort to limit GHG emissions.

Figure 3 from page 9 of the report: Change in Temperature Between 1981-2010 and 1951-1980 in Afghanistan Derived from Reanalysis Data (GSWP3)

Further Resources