The African farming communities that have scrapped by with low food resources and water scarcity for generations now face an obstacle that could led to their ultimate destruction.
With climate change elevating temperatures, ensuing droughts and proliferating disease, African countries that have not adapted to economies outside of agriculture must do so in the next 50 to 100 years, according to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Temperatures in Africa rose .5 degrees Celsius in the past century, and the climate is expected to heat up at a more rapid rate to 2 degrees Celsius in the 21st century.
The IPCC predicts that Africa will endure the greatest burden of all areas affected by climate change. Along with the continent’s stagnant development, mere geography places Africa in the worst position. Countries such as Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Mali—already some of the hottest in the world—are set to heat up 1.5 times more than the rest of the world.
The anticipated changes are approaching in a matter of decades. If temperatures continue to increase, 75% of Africa’s population will be at risk for hunger by 2080, according to the UN Office of the Special Adviser on Africa. The predicted changes will be followed by a cut of 22% of crop yields in the Sub Sahara, as well as drought, air pollution, rising sea levels, and desertification.
In East African countries, climate change has elevated food and drought crises. In Somalia, 2.9 million people face hunger and 3.2 million people are in urgent need of water, according to a report from global poverty organization Oxfam. The rainfalls in Somalia have been cut by nearly a third, with dry rather than historically long rain periods in 10 of the 16 rains in the past three years. In Ethiopia, rainfall was reduced 16% in the 2015-2016 period and in the same period rainfalls reduced 24% in South Africa, according to a 2016 study by the American Meteorological Society. The study attributed drought from climate change as a contributor to food crises across Africa, which affect an estimated 60 million people.
Along with threats to food and water resources, climate change also provides a suitable environment for the spread of malaria. The raised temperatures in regularly low temperature environments in Africa allow for higher rates of transmission, according to “Mapping Physiological Suitability Limits for Malaria in Africa Under Climate Change” by Sadie J. Ryan at the University of Florida. The research indicated that areas in Africa that are suitable for malaria transmission will expand by 2080, and the months that malaria is transmittable will extend year-round. In South Africa, the number of malaria cases have risen by nearly 3,000 from 2016, with 9,478 reported cases in 2017, according to a report from the National Center for Communicable Diseases. The number of people in Africa exposed to malaria is set to reach 90 million by 2030, according to the World Bank.
The World Bank also estimated that the impacts of climate change could further cripple Africa’s economy. If temperatures rise even 2 degrees Celsius, the continent’s per capita consumption would decrease 4-5%.
To combat the escalation of climate change in Africa, the World Bank and the UN have produced initiatives to stop rising temperatures and fund projects to prevent drought and boost farming. The World Bank funded a $100 million transit project to combat carbon emissions in Nigeria and subsidized a program to increase biodiversity in Ethiopia and Kenya. The UN also boosted funding for climate change measures in Africa as a part of the 2016 Paris Climate Agreement. The agreement allotted $100 million to hinder climate change in developing countries in Africa. In addition to UN funding, the deal requires African countries to raise $3 billion until 2020.
Along with monetary contributions, the UN has urged countries in Africa to restructure energy industries. At the Paris summit, countries discussed a shift to solar energy from the continent’s $50 billion oil industry. The UN estimated that solar energy projects could bring 16 to 26 million people out of poverty and lead to a 27% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2040. The Paris deal also pledged to stop the rising temperatures in Africa from increasing 2 degrees Celsius.
At the climate change summit, several global leaders warned of the severity of the implications of rising temperatures in Africa in comparison to western countries. In a speech at the launch of the African Climate Plan, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim said that initiatives needed to be focused on developing economies that face the most destruction from climate change: “This is not just about taking carbon out of the air to preserve a future for the wealthy countries—this is also about ensuring that we are addressing directly the justice issues that confront us when we look at the impact of current levels of temperature rise on so many in Sub-Saharan Africa,” said Kim.
Leaders from African countries have also urged worldwide organizations and citizens of areas affected to advocate for climate change.Ahead of the summit, Tanzanian vice president Mohammed Gharuv Bilal gave a speech warning the effects of climate change on future Africans. “If we fail to act now, it will be a moral and policy failure,” said Bilal. “How can our children and grandchildren understand our failure to act in the face of such compelling evidence of impending disaster?”
Photo by Alex Widmer via Unsplash.