Meet our keynote speakers series: Prof. Godwell Nhamo

Can you tell us about your work on adaptation?

My most recent work focused on the increasing risks of tropical cyclones, floods and tornadoes in southern Africa. The work is well-documented in four book volumes published by Springer Nature in 2021. The work was triggered by the catastrophic impact of Tropical Cyclone Idai and Tropical Cyclone Kenneth in southern Africa, and the Kwa-Zulu Natal and Eastern Cape provinces floods (South Africa) in 2019. Given the visible gap in scientific knowledge on Loss and Damage (L&D), especially from extreme events, the book series narrowed down to detailed documentation of the impacts from the changing climate in southern Africa and also the possible responses thereof. From perceptions on different belief systems, through disaster philanthropy, early warning systems, impact on education, wildlife, settlements, roads, health infrastructure, agriculture, food security, migration and displacement, etc., all these are topics covered in the book series. Policy recommendations, some that are already being implemented in countries like Zimbabwe on revamping metrological offices with modern equipment and refinements on disaster reduction protocols are among the immediate benefits of addressing adaptation requirements.

Apart from the work profiled herein, additional work has been ongoing on the impact of droughts on livelihoods and coastal cities and how these can be addressed. Work on Day-Zero in Cape Town (South Africa) has been cited and is continuously informing global local authorities on dealing with critical water shortages from prolonged droughts. My work further subscribes to the African Union position on the need to prioritize adaptation as outlined in Africa Agenda 2063. Overall, my belief is that the world needs to collectively adapt to climate change and stop grand-standing when it comes to deliberations on adaptation in major UN platforms including the IPCC and the UNFCCC. Time to continue talking is over, now is the time to act, and act yesterday!

Which area of your work (theme etc.) do you think includes the concept of transformation?

My work on cyclones, floods and tornadoes in Southern Africa, as well as other thematic research areas follow a thesis that demands thought leadership that enables ambitious and at times radical engagements with key stakeholders around climate change. The work has opened and pioneered research that has created a legacy body of knowledge, which scholars are receiving well globally. A critical mass of researchers has been developed and geometrical spill-over effects on publications surrounding climate change adaptation are being realized.

How do you see this contributing to finding best practices to tackling climate change?

I see my work significantly contributing to the science-policy interface regarding Loss and Damage (L&D), both from the slow onsets and extreme events, particularly in Africa and other developing countries. My medium to long-term goal is to narrow debates on questions on the legitimacy of evidence put on the table during meetings of the IPCC and UNFCCC bodies. Furthermore, my work is targeted at harmonizing understanding between old and evolving terminologies such as discourses between adaptation (mainly embedded in the Paris Agreement) and resilience (mainly embedded in the Sendai Framework on Disaster Risk Reduction). My positioning is that for developing countries and the world to move forward, move quicker and press towards the goal of climate adaptation, key stakeholders like politicians, academics, government officials and UN agencies need to close ranks and agree that when it comes to climate change, the UNFCCC and its subsidiary agreements takes precedents over the Sendai Framework.

More about the speaker:

Godwell Nhamo is a Full Professor and Exxaro Chair in Climate and Sustainability Transitions at the University of South Africa (UNISA). He is a NRF C-Rated researcher undertaking research in the fields of Climate Change Adaptation. Mitigation and Governance, Climate Change and Tourism, COVID-19 and Sustainable Development. Prof Nhamo has conceptualized and successfully completed 17 book projects (13 edited and 4 co-authored). He has published over 101 journal articles, and since 2013, graduated 11 PhDs and hosted 11 postdocs. Professor Nhamo has received many awards including: Unisa Chairperson of Council Award of Excellence in Overall Job Performance and Community Service (twice), Unisa Vice Chancellor Award of Research Excellence (thrice) and Unisa Prestigious External Research Award and Recognition (2018). In 2017 Prof Nhamo was recognized for the Rhodes University Distinguished Old Rhodian Award for having reached exceptional heights in his chosen career by maintaining excellence in the field and service to society. His most recent award is the 2021 NRF UNISA team Science Team Award. Prof Nhamo was also one of the four-member African Union High Level Panel drafting the Green Innovation Framework for the continent. Finally, Prof Nhamo is one of the experts for the Non-economic Losses (NELs) Group under the UNFCCC Warsaw International Mechanisms on Loss and Damage.