Sunday, September 22, 2013

Africa and climate change: What's at stake?

An editorial in by Richard Munang and Joy Hyvarinen: The Warsaw climate change conference in November this year is the next milestone towards the 2015 deadline for adopting a new climate change agreement. With many issues to resolve and the deadline approaching, negotiations are likely to be intense. Africa does have much at stake, but also much to bring to the negotiations.

Severe droughts in the Horn of Africa in 2011 and in the Sahel region in 2012 highlighted Africa's vulnerability. The threats to people and development will worsen as warming is projected to be greater than the global annual mean, with an average increase of three to four degrees over the next century. These continental changes will affect the livelihoods of millions and permanently displace many thousands. Agricultural losses are forecasted to result in the loss of between two and seven percent of GDP and, by 2050, average maize, rice and wheat yields will decline by up to five percent, 14 percent, 22 percent respectively. These stark statistics are the evidence of a growing realisation of what is at stake for the continent.

The Doha climate change conference in December 2012 made only limited progress and failed to set more ambitious goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. That failure increases the risk of a rise in average global temperatures by two degrees Celsius by the end of this century. Studies by the World Bank indicate that even with the current commitments and pledges fully implemented, there is roughly a 20 per cent likelihood that temperature increases would top four degrees by the end of this century, potentially triggering a cascade of cataclysmic changes - including extreme heat-waves, declining global food stocks and a rising sea level, affecting hundreds of millions of people.

African countries have for long held positions in favour of an ambitious global climate agreement. The Warsaw climate change conference, followed by the 2014 climate conference in Peru, will be important stages in finalising the current round of negotiations scheduled for completion in Paris in 2015. The aim is to adopt a future climate change agreement, but many issues need to be resolved before that. ...

NASA image of Africa

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