The threats posed by climate change are real and occurring every day. In recent years through the expansion of research on climate change and physical manifestations, we now have a clear picture of current and projected effects of climate change. It has been projected that there is a 90 percent chance that global temperatures will rise from 3.5 to 7.4 degrees Celsius in less than a hundred years. These shifts in temperature may seem minimal but will have destabilising effects on our planet and its people. According to the Climate Change Vulnerability Index for 2015, seven of the top 10 countries that are most at risk of the effects of climate change are in Africa. The continent is vulnerable to severe effects of climate change due to its limited adaptive capacity which is exacerbated by developmental challenges such as poverty.
1. Agriculture and Food Security
Although agricultural production still remains far from developed world standards, economies in Africa are heavily dependent on agriculture. More than 32 percent of the continents Gross Domestic Product (GDP) comes from the agricultural sector. 224 million people in Africa are now reportedly malnourished. This is an increase of over 20 million in recent years. This increase is attributed to complex socio-political issues but also related to the increasing pressures of extreme weather events. Rising temperatures and a greater prevalence of droughts across the African continent has led to repeated crop failure. The United Nations has warned states in Africa of these predicted effects of climate change and how they are likely to affect the food security of the continent. To counter these challenge, the continent has been urged to promote the farming of drought tolerant crops such as sorghum, millet and cassava.
Some experts have drawn links between the effects of climate change and national security. For these experts, climate change is best viewed and understood as a “threat multiplier” in that it exacerbates existing security trends, tensions and instability. Reports on Africa have claimed that temperature rises in Africa have coincided with significant increase in the likelihood of war. Ban Ki- moon, the former UN Secretary General in 2007 described the conflict in Sudan’s Dafur region as the world’s first climate change conflict. This was based on the assumption that the scarcity of water which was exacerbated by the change in rainfall patterns contributed to the conflict.
Many researchers have cast doubt on the relationship between conflict and climate change. Further research is required to fully understand the link between violent conflict and climate change in Africa. With this, the world’s states can effectively prepare for temperature changes through diplomacy, strategies and good governance.
Africa’s dry areas such as the Sahel can expect to become even dryer. With a third of the population of Africa already living in areas that are drought prone, climate change could put millions more people at risk. Areas in Southern Africa that are prone to flooding could become wetter due to changes in rainfall patterns. These changes in weather patterns could divert funds for development assistance onto emergency relief assistance.
It has been estimated that by 2020, 250 million people in Africa will be exposed to water stresses. The South African Cape region has for example over the years experienced its lowest rainfall in over 100 years. For other Southern African countries such as Zambia, many areas are becoming much dryer. The most notable example at the moment of severe water stress in Africa is that of Cape Town in South Africa. Cape Town is in the grip of a drought that could see it become the first city in the world to run out of water. The city is now edging closer to “Day Zero” which is set for 9 July, when water supplies will be so low that authorities will have to cut off water supply to three quarters of the population.
Diseases that are sensitive to climate change could be more prevalent in poorer countries which do not possess sufficient resources to treat and prevent illness. Some of these diseases include severe heart stress linked to temperature rises, respiratory problems related to poor air quality and the rise of cases of malaria in areas that will experience increased rainfall.
Featured image | Tea pickers in Kenya’s Mount Kenya region, for the Two Degrees Up project, to look at the impact of climate change on agriculture | CIAT | flickr
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Best of Africa.
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