UN selects DUCC as a ‘project to watch’ as part of Big Data Climate Challenge

The United Nations selected UNU-WIDER’s Development Under Climate Change (DUCC) project as ‘one to watch’ in its ‘Big Data Climate Challenge’ that is part of the build up to the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Summit on 23 September 2014 at UN Headquarters, New York.

The Big Data Climate Challenge is a global competition hosted by United Nations Global Pulse. The Challenge was launched in May 2014 to unearth fresh evidence of the economic dimensions of climate change around the world using data and analytics. Submissions were received from 40 countries, representing more than 20 topics from forestry, biodiversity, and transportation to renewable energy and green data centers. The ‘Projects to Watch’—chosen to highlight particularly innovative uses of big data in emerging topics and geographic regions—will be featured on the UN Climate Summit website.

Climate change is likely to remain a serious issue for decades to come if not indefinitely. One of the key tasks for assisting policy makers in developing countries address the uncertainties of climate change is translating scientific and biophysical processes into economic outcomes. UNU-WIDER’s Development Under Climate Change (DUCC) project is particularly aimed at addressing this challenge by using an analytical framework that traces the economic implications of climate change.

The framework used in the project takes into account a wide range of factors including production of hydropower, agricultural yield, water supply/demand balance, and the costs of maintaining infrastructure. These impacts then serve as inputs into an economy-wide model of the country in question which aids the assessment of economic impacts and policy options.

UNU-WIDER has applied this framework to several countries, these case studies can be read here. The submission to the UN’s Big Data Climate Challenge focussed on the case of South Africa, analysis of which has been carried out in collaboration with the Long-Term Adaptation Strategies (LTAS) process undertaken by the government of South Africa. This research produced numerous interesting results:

  • The median result shows that by 2050 South Africa’s real GDP level will be about 1.5% lower than it would have been without climate change
  • The median loss in net present value is approximately ZAR259 billion which, at more than 10% of 2007 GDP, is sizeable
  • The high level of development and integration of South African water supply infrastructure helps to mitigate impact of climate change on water supply in most regions—maintaining/improving this infrastructure is an important policy priority