Preventing climate change is no longer the issue – we must adapt to it.

 This was the message of photojournalist Jeffrey Barbee at the screening of his documentary Creating a Climate of Change at the Wits Origins Centre on Tuesday.

 Barbee’s film shows real-world examples of how southern African rural communities have adapted to variable rainfall and arid soil caused by climate change.

 Barbee, who studied climatology as a young researcher, said huge issues in Africa, like AIDS and starvation, were compounded by climate change. Climate change adaptations, like conservation farming and the restoration of ecosystems, provided jobs, food and tourism revenue for communities.

 Conservation farming makes the best use of resources in a variable climate.

 Barbee said that when people watched the film they should think: “Ah, we can do something. If they [African communities] can do it, so can we.”

 He hopes his film will reach as many people as possible, but said he needed funding to bring it to poorer communities without internet access.

 Although this documentary focuses on rural adaptations, his next documentary would present urban solutions. Barbee believed conservation farming could be applied on a commercial scale, based on his experience of a Zambian project.

“We all need to be part of the solution,” he said.

 He concurred with scientist Francois Engelbrecht that climate change would definitely happen.  

 Engelbrecht, an atmospheric modeller at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), told the audience the reliance of the world’s economy on fossil fuels had committed us to climate change. Even if greenhouse gas emissions were kept at a level that limited global temperatures to a 2˚C rise in the next century, southern Africa’s temperatures would still rise by 4˚C.

The greenhouse effect caused more high pressure systems (associated with the clear skies in winter), which in turn caused less rain to fall and higher surface temperatures.

Wits’ Global Change and Sustainability Research Institute was recently established to research “adaptation and innovation in the rapidly changing southern African region”. Climate change is a major cause of these changes.

The documentary can be seen at: