Earth Institute Research Projects

Type 1-L02170337: Collaborative Research: Use of Climate Information in International Negotiation for Adaptation Resources

Lead PI: Dr. Michela Biasutti , Prof. Adam Sobel , Professor Michael Gerrard

Unit Affiliation: Ocean & Climate Physics, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (LDEO)

November 2010 - March 2015
Africa ; Sub-Saharan Africa ; African Sahel
Project Type: Research

DESCRIPTION: The project will 1) evaluate the sensitivity of agricultural impact models to refined climate projections and to their uncertainty, and 2) identify how the knowledge produced by climate and climate-impact models can inform negotiations for international adaptation funds.

This project will advance understanding of how sub-seasonal variability in rainfall and temperature can affect agricultural production in the African Sahel in the current climate and under global warming conditions. The project also will identify best practice for how to convey such advanced knowledge to policy makers. The first task requires (i) building the relevant datasets (for example, onset dates, frequency of dry spells, high rainfall events, and heat waves) for the Sahel from limited station data, satellites, reanalysis, and statistical weather generators; (ii) analyzing the variability of these climate indices at the country and regional scale in observations and in climate model simulations; and (iii) assessing their changes in 21st century projections. To identify if these climate indices have a significant effect on regional agricultural output, they will be used as input for crop models and as predictors in a regression analysis of agricultural and economic output. The second task will be accomplished by a legal analysis of successfully concluded international agreements and of on-going negotiations within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The analysis will identify the nature of the information needed for the best allocation of resources, and the form in which such information should be framed in order for it to be most comprehensible and useful to negotiators. In particular, the analysis will identify how measures of uncertainty can be brought into the negotiation process as additional, valuable information.

This project will provide a template for how climate scientists and economists can frame and promulgate their findings in a way that will have the greatest policy impact. It is built as a case study. The project first will seek to advance understanding of how extremes in rainfall and heat will change in a monsoonal and semi-arid climate under the effect of human-affected global warming. The project then will assess the influence of such changes on regional crops, depending on whether or not adaptation strategies are deployed. The investigators will disseminate an up-to-date, state-of-the-art assessment report that is framed especially as an aid to adaptation planning and to negotiations for adaptation funds. The project also will contribute to educating the next generation of interdisciplinary scholars in the fields of climate science, crop modeling, sustainable development, and the law.

OUTCOMES: Three journal publications. The three principle investigators have mostly done exploratory work within their fields.


National Science Foundation (NSF)




Sabin Center for Climate Change Law


Stanford University



Biasutti, M.. "Forced Sahel rainfall trends in the CMIP5 archive," Forced Sahel rainfall trends in the CMIP5 archive, v.18, 2013, p. n/a. doi:doi:10.1002/jgrd.50206

Alexis Saba, Michela Biasutti, Michael B. Gerrard, and David B. Lobell. "Getting Ahead of the Curve: Supporting Adaptation to Long-term Climate Change and Short-term Climate Variability Alike," Carbon & Climate Law Review, 2013.

Biasutti, M., & Yuter, S. E.. "Observed frequency and intensity of tropical precipitation from instantaneous estimates," Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres, 2013.

Lee, D.-H. and M. Biasutti. "Climatology and variability of precipitation in the 20th century reanalysis," Journal of Climate, 2014.

Rodriguez-Fonseca, B., E. Mohino, R. C. Mechoso, C. Caminade, M. Biasutti, M. Gae- tani, J. Garca-Serrano, E. K. Vizy, K. Cook, Y. Xue, I. Polo, T. Losada, L. Druyan, B. Fontaine, J. Bader, F. J. Doblas-Reyes, L. Goddard, S. Janicot, A. Arribas, W. Lau, A. "Variability and Predictability of West African Droughts," Journal of Climate, 2015.

Shelley Welton, Michela Biasutti, and Michael Gerrard. "Legal and Scientific Integrity in advancing a ?Land Degradation Neutral World?.," Columbia Journal of Environmental Law, v.40, 2015.

Sultan B., K. Guan, M. Kouressy, M. Biasutti, C. Piani, , G. L. Hammere, G. McLean, and D. Lobell. "Robust features of future climate change impacts on sorghum yields in West Africa," Environmental Research Letters, 2014. doi:doi:10.1088/1748- 9326/9/10/104006


adaptation funding international negotiations global climate models prediction law climate change ocean and climate physics


Modeling and Adapting to Future Climate