Global Warming: Severe Consequences for Africa

Farmers planting during a rainy season in Dali, North Darfur,
Sudan. Credit: UN Photo / Albert Farran

By Dan Shepard

Record global greenhouse gas emissions are putting the world on
a path toward unacceptable warming, with serious implications for
development prospects in Africa. “Limiting warming to 1.5° C is
possible within the laws of chemistry and physics, but doing so
would require unprecedented changes,” said Jim Skea, cochair of
the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Working Group

But IPCC, the world’s foremost authority for assessing the
science of climate change, says it is still possible to limit
global temperature rise to 1.5° C—if, and only if, there are
“rapid and far-reaching transitions in land, energy, industry,
buildings, transport, and cities.” For sub-Saharan Africa, which
has experienced more frequent and more intense climate extremes
over the past decades, the ramifications of the world’s warming
by more than 1.5° C would be profound.

Temperature increases in the region are projected to be higher
than the global mean temperature increase; regions in Africa within
15 degrees of the equator are projected to experience an increase
in hot nights as well as longer and more frequent heat waves.

The odds are long but not impossible, says the IPCC. And the
benefits of limiting climate change to 1.5° C are enormous, with
the report detailing the difference in the consequences between a
1.5° C increase and a 2° C increase. Every bit of additional
warming adds greater risks for Africa in the form of greater
droughts, more heat waves and more potential crop failures.

Recognizing the increasing threat of climate change, many
countries came together in 2015 to adopt the historic Paris
Agreement, committing themselves to limiting climate change to well
below 2° C. Some 184 countries have formally joined the agreement,
including almost every African nation, with only Angola, Eritrea
and South Sudan yet to join. The agreement entered into force in
November 2016.

In December 2018, countries met in Katowice, Poland, for the
Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework
Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)—known as COP24—to
finalise the rules for implementation of the agreement’s work
programme. As part of the Paris Agreement, countries made national
commitments to take steps to reduce emissions and build resilience.
The treaty also called for increased financial support from
developed countries to assist the climate action efforts of
developing countries.

But even at the time that the Paris Agreement was adopted, it
was recognized that the commitments on the table would not be
enough. Even if the countries did everything they promised, global
temperatures would rise by 3° C this century. According to the
IPCC, projections show that the western Sahel region will
experience the strongest drying, with a significant increase in the
maximum length of dry spells. The IPCC expects Central Africa to
see a decrease in the length of wet spells and a slight increase in
heavy rainfall.

West Africa has been identified as a climate-change hotspot,
with climate change likely to lessen crop yields and production,
with resultant impacts on food security. Southern Africa will also
be affected. The western part of Southern Africa is set to become
drier, with increasing drought frequency and number of heat waves
toward the end of the 21st century.

A warming world will have implications for precipitation. At
1.5° C, less rain would fall over the Limpopo basin and areas of
the Zambezi basin in Zambia, as well as parts of Western Cape in
South Africa. But at 2° C, Southern Africa is projected to face a
decrease in precipitation of about 20% and increases in the number
of consecutive dry days in Namibia, Botswana, northern Zimbabwe and
southern Zambia. This will cause reductions in the volume of the
Zambezi basin projected at 5% to 10%.

If the global mean temperature reaches 2° C of global warming,
it will cause significant changes in the occurrence and intensity
of temperature extremes in all sub-Saharan regions. West and
Central Africa will see particularly large increases in the number
of hot days at both 1.5° C and 2° C. Over Southern Africa,
temperatures are expected to rise faster at 2° C, and areas of the
southwestern region, especially in South Africa and parts of
Namibia and Botswana, are expected to experience the greatest
increases in temperature.

Perhaps no region in the world has been affected as much as the
Sahel, which is experiencing rapid population growth, estimated at
2.8% per year, in an environment of shrinking natural resources,
including land and water resources.

Inga Rhonda King, President of the UN Economic and Social
Council, a UN principal organ that coordinates the economic and
social work of UN agencies, told a special meeting at the UN that
the region is also one of the most environmentally degraded in the
world, with temperature increases projected to be 1.5 times higher
than in the rest of the world.

Largely dependent on rain-fed agriculture, the Sahel is
regularly hit by droughts and floods, with enormous consequences to
people’s food security. As a result of armed conflict, violence
and military operations, some 4.9 million people have been
displaced this year, a threefold increase in less than three years,
while 24 million people require humanitarian assistance throughout
the region.

Climate change is already considered a threat multiplier,
exacerbating existing problems, including conflicts. Ibrahim Thiaw,
special adviser of the UN Secretary-General for the Sahel, says the
Sahel region is particularly vulnerable to climate change, with 300
million people affected.

Drought, desertification and scarcity of resources have led to
heightened conflicts between crop farmers and cattle herders, and
weak governance has led to social breakdowns, says Mr. Thiaw. The
shrinking of Lake Chad is leading to economic marginalization and
providing a breeding ground for recruitment by terrorist groups as
social values and moral authority evaporate.

*Africa Renewal, which is published by the
United Nations, reports on and examines the many different aspects
of the UN’s involvement in Africa, especially within the
framework of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development
(NEPAD). It works closely with the many UN agencies and offices
dealing with African issues, including the UN Economic Commission
for Africa and the Office of the Special Adviser on Africa.

The post
Global Warming: Severe Consequences for Africa
appeared first
on Inter Press Service.


Dan Shepard is a UN public information officer
specializing in sustainability issues–including SDGs, biodiversity
& climate change.

Africa Renewal*

The post
Global Warming: Severe Consequences for Africa
appeared first
on Inter Press Service.

Source: FS – All – Ecology – News
Global Warming: Severe Consequences for Africa