Is Global Warming Discriminating against Africans?

Even though Global warming is a big headache for the whole world, Africa’s ecosystem is suffering the most and is hit by more draughts, floods and other disasters. It is assumed that the effect may be on a similar scale to the climatic disruption in the last Ice Age. What is more worrying is the historical weather patterns are becoming less useful for predicting the future conditions because global warming is changing ocean and atmospheric conditions. As a result, it is predicted that in 30 to 50 years, the Earth’s weather generating system will be entirely different.

Scientists further noted that climate change would also have large-scale social impacts in Africa in the future. This is increasing the vulnerability of poor communities, especially farmers, who have to cope with not only droughts but also sudden, violent and unpredictable rainfall. The recent spread of Cholera disease, for instance, is one of the many outcomes of global warming.

Scientific researches have made it clear that although climates across Africa have always been erratic, the recent trend indicates new and dangerous extremes. The Up In Smoke report, which updates previous researches, stated that arid or semi-arid areas in northern, western, eastern and parts of southern Africa are becoming drier, while equatorial Africa and other parts of southern Africa are getting wetter. On average, the continent is 0.5C warmer than it was 100 years ago, but temperatures have risen much higher in some areas such as a part of Kenya which has become 3.5C hotter in the past 20 years, the report noted. Global warming means that many dry areas are going to get drier and wet areas are going to get wetter. The developing states are going to be caught between the devil of drought and floods.

Scientist from the New Economics Foundation noted: “Global warming is set to make many of the problems which Africa already deals with, much, much worse.” It is feared that global warming will lead to an unprecedented threat to food security. For instance, in the last year alone, 25 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa have faced food crisis. Many warned that unless climate change is tackled by all the best efforts, Africa will be in much worse condition. The Up In Smoke report also said that one of the biggest threats is growing climate unpredictability, which makes subsistence farming difficult. The average number of food emergencies in Africa per year almost tripled since the mid 1980s. But the report says that better planning to reduce the risk from disasters, together with developing agricultural practices that can withstand changing climates, have been shown to work and could help mitigate the impact if used be more widely.

Up in Smoke report also criticized the industrialized governments for not helping developing countries to adapt to climate change.  According to the World Bank’s Vahid Alavian, USD 10-40 billion will be needed each year to help de­veloping countries adapt to climate change. However, the industrialized countries have given only $43m – a tenth of the amount they have pledged – while rich country fossil fuel subsidies total $73bn a year. The report further said that greenhouse emissions cuts of 60%-90% will ultimately be needed – way beyond the targets set in the Kyoto agreement. Developed countries, specially the US and China, are mostly responsible for emission, but poor countries like Ethiopia are only responsible only for 1% of the green house emission.

According to the Up In Smoke report, 75-250 million people across Africa could face water shortages by 2020. Crop yields could increase by 20% in East and Southeast Asia, but decrease by up to 30% in Central and South Asia. Besides, agriculture fed by rainfall could drop by 50% in some African countries by 2020.

African countries need to enhance and strengthen their capacity to adapt to climate change. Tom Mitchell, research fellow, Institute of Development Studies, proposed the following measures: setting targets for the greater use of new energy technologies; designing a pro-poor climate adaptation strategy; giving US$109m to improve climate observation capacity in African research institutions; encourage donors to integrate climate variability and climate risk factors into project planning and assessment by 2008, imploring donors to meet their commitment to funding adaptation to climate change in African countries.

To date, minimal attention has been given to how to ensure adaptation to climate change. In several occasions, developing countries are demanding the North to pay for it through aid and developmental support.

Currently, most development activities do not take climate change into consideration. A new commitment is needed from African governments that mainstream climate change into policies and green development initiatives.

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