Climate change will expose up to 118 million extremely poor Africans to drought, floods and extreme heat by 2030 if it is not addressed urgently. It could cut gross domestic product by up to three percent by 2050. And East Africa’s iconic mountain glaciers are disappearing.
These are the dramatic conclusions of a new report published on Tuesday (October 19, 2021) by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) in partnership with the African Union Commission, the Economic Commission for Africa and other groups.
In his foreword to the report, the WMO Secretary-General, Professor Petteri Taalas, said Africa was being hit by higher temperatures, a rise in sea levels and extreme weather and climate events such as floods, landslides and droughts.
Unpacking the implications of these developments for the people of the continent, Josefa Leonel Correia Sacko, Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture with the African Union Commission, said weather and climate changes were disrupting lives and economies.
“By 2030,” she wrote, “it is estimated that up to 118 million extremely poor people (i.e. living on less than U.S.$1.90 a day) will be exposed to drought, floods and extreme heat in Africa, if adequate response measures are not put in place…
“In sub-Saharan Africa,” she continued, “climate change could further lower gross domestic product (GDP) by up to three percent by 2050. This presents a serious challenge for climate adaptation and resilience actions because not only are physical conditions getting worse, but also the number of people being affected is increasing.”
Mr Taalas added that East Africa’s glaciers are shrinking rapidly and are expected to melt entirely “in the near future.” This, he said, “signals the threat of imminent and irreversible change to the Earth system.”
The report says that the glaciers have shrunk to less than 20 per cent of their size since 1880. The three mountains which feature glaciers – Mount Kenya Massif in Kenya, the Rwenzori Mountains in Uganda and Kilimanjaro in Tanzania are “of eminent touristic and scientific importance,” it says.
The report estimates that African nations have already spent significant sums – between two and nine per cent of their GDP – on adapting to climate change and the cost will rise to US $50 billion a year by 2050 even if global warming is kept below an additional 2°C.
Other features of the report:
- “Africa has warmed faster than the global average temperature over land and ocean combined. 2020 ranked between the third and eighth warmest year on record for Africa, depending on the dataset used.”
- “The rates of sea-level rise along the tropical and South Atlantic coasts and Indian Ocean coast are higher than the global mean rate, at approximately 3.6mm per year and 4.1mm per year, respectively.”
- The glaciers’ rate of retreat is higher than the global average. “If this continues, it will lead to total deglaciation by the 2040s. Mount Kenya is expected to be de-glaciated a decade sooner, which will make it one of the first entire mountain ranges to lose glaciers due to human-induced climate change.”
- “Higher-than-normal precipitation – accompanied by flooding – predominated in the Sahel, the Rift Valley, the central Nile catchment and north-eastern Africa, the Kalahari basin and the lower course of the Congo River.”
- “Dry conditions prevailed in the northern coast of the Gulf of Guinea and in north-western Africa and along the south-eastern part of the continent. The drought in Madagascar triggered a humanitarian crisis.”
- “There was extensive flooding across many parts of East Africa [in 2020]. Countries reporting loss of life or significant displacement of populations included the Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Uganda, Chad, Nigeria (which also experienced drought in the southern part), Niger, Benin, Togo, Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon and Burkina Faso. Many lakes and rivers reached record high levels, including Lake Victoria (in May) and the Niger River at Niamey and the Blue Nile at Khartoum (in September).”
- “The compounded effects of protracted conflicts, political instability, climate variability, pest outbreaks and economic crises, exacerbated by the impacts of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, were the key drivers of a significant increase in food insecurity…. Food insecurity increases by 5–20 percentage points with each flood or drought in sub-Saharan Africa.”
Read the full report here.
(This report was first published by AllAfrica. We have their permission to republish).
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