Thursday, November 25, 2010

Millions of Africans at risk from sea level rise via United Nations Settlements Program (Kenya): More than 25 per cent of Africa's population of about one billion people lives within 100 km from the coast. With climate change, many will be at risk from sea level rise and coastal flooding over the coming decades. According to the new UN-HABITAT report, State of African Cities 2010, Africa will suffer disproportionately from the negative effects of climate change despite contributing less than 5 per cent of global green house emissions.

"Already confronted by innumerable problems related to economic development and urbanisation, African countries have to now address the negative effects of climate change despite being minimal contributors to green house emissions. The slums of African cities are already witnessing increased numbers of environmental refugees," said Joan Clos, Executive Director of UN-HABITAT. "Whatever the reasons, this is the time to act. African cities can adopt measures to reduce vulnerability and mitigation measures should be put in place. With strategic urban
planning that improves slums and rationalizes urban mobility and energy consumption, cities can be part of the solution."

Already beaches and dune ridges along some African coasts show evidence of retreat, varying from between a loss of about 1 to 2 metres annually in Senegal to between 20 and 30 metres along the Gulf of Guinea. The Dakar coast, for instance, with 50,000 individuals per square km, is one of the most densely populated in Western Africa, and a storm surge disaster could easily affect 75,000 residents.

While climate variability is not a new factor in Africa's history, the report points out that the incidence and severity of extreme weather events, including floods and droughts, has increased sharply in recent years and projections indicate that this trend may intensify, further increasing vulnerability. Burkina Faso, for instance, experienced the heaviest rains in 90 years in 2009, leaving 150,000 people homeless. Other parts of Africa recently suffered prolonged droughts and subsequent hunger, leading to rural-urban ecomigration, adding even more people to the urban populations at risk….

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