Info Service on Health Issues (November 06/9)
Climate change already hitting Africa
new report ‘Africa Up in Smoke 2’ (http://www.oxfam.org.uk/what_we_do/issues/climate_change/africa_up_in_smoke.htm)
says that climate change is already affecting peoples’ lives across
Africa. Extremes in climate and continual warming are seriously impacting
livelihoods, poverty and HIV/AIDS. Women and rural societies are under
the greatest stress. But the international community has failed to meet
its commitments to help the world’s poor to adapt to the impact of climate
article below gives the highlights. It is reproduced with permission
from South-North Development Monitor (SUNS) # 6133, 3 November 2006.
Environment: Climate change
already hitting Africa
By Martin Khor, Geneva, 2
Even as global policymakers debate how to deal with anticipated climate
change disasters of the future, the effects of climate change are already
hitting the African region and many other parts of the developing world.
A report published on 29 October by a coalition of leading development
and environment NGOs in the United Kingdom says that climate change
is already having serious impacts on peoples' lives across Africa. The
problems will get much worse without urgent action now.
The report, "Africa Up in Smoke 2", is based on the latest
scientific research and as well as evidence from the ground.
The report is published by The Working Group on Climate Change and Development
whose members include ActionAid International, CAFOD, Christian Aid,
Columban Faith and Justice, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Institute
for Development Studies, International Institute for Environment and
Development, MedAct, New Economics Foundation, Oxfam GB, Panos, World
Vision and WWF.
It says that Africa is already warmer by 0.5 degrees centigrade than
it was 100 years ago. According to the Hadley Centre, a leading climate
research body in the UK, temperature increases over many areas of Africa
will be double the global average increase, and drought patterns stand
to worsen catastrophically.
The coalition stressed that Africa is the continent probably most vulnerable
of all to the negative effects of climate change, and the one that faces
the greatest challenges to adapt.
An example given is that for millions of people in the Horn and East
Africa, the success or failure of rains due over the next two months
will be critical. Whether the rains fall will determine if in 2007 there
can be recovery from the serious drought of 2005-2006, or there will
be another disastrous year.
Africa is undergoing big environmental changes. Although the climates
of Africa have always been erratic, the latest scientific research,
and the agencies' on-the-ground experience indicates new and dangerous
extremes, continual warming and more unpredictable weather patterns.
The success or failure of one rainy season, or even several, cannot
be attributed to global warming. But, says the report, Africa is steadily
warming and the climate is changing.
Quoting the experience of ordinary African people and aid agency partners,
the report catalogues the impact of rising temperatures, more frequent
and severe droughts in some places, more torrential rains in others
and greater climatic uncertainty for the continent's farmers.
Climatic unpredictability increases the pressure on people's lives and
livelihoods from poverty, HIV/AIDS and government neglect. Women and
rural societies, especially pastoralists, are under the greatest stresses.
While local conditions vary, across sub-Saharan Africa as a whole, 33%
of people are under-nourished, compared with 17% of people in all developing
countries. This rises to 55% in Central Africa. The average number of
food emergencies in Africa per year almost tripled since the mid 1980s.
Climate change poses a new and unprecedented threat to food security.
The report says that the international community is failing to meet
even the limited commitments it has made to help the world's poorest
people adapt to the impact of climate change.
Contributions to the two funds specifically designed to help poor countries
adapt stand at just $43 million in 2005-2006, around one tenth of the
amount pledged, whilst the overall annual costs to adapt to projected
climate change are likely to be between $10 billion and $40 billion
The report contrasts this to the annual $235 billion subsidies for fossil
fuel industries globally.
Among the proposals made by the coalition are the following:
-- Cut rich-country greenhouse gas emissions: Global greenhouse gas
emissions must be cut, so that average temperatures do not rise more
than 2 degrees C above pre-industrial levels.
The threat of major and irreversible climate change becomes far greater
as temperatures increase. As Africa's contribution to greenhouse gas
emissions is negligible, the responsibility lies with the rich nations
whose historical and continued excessive burning of fossil fuels is
to blame for most of the current warming trends.
-- Build on the Kyoto Protocol to toughen up international efforts post-2012:
To avoid possibly cataclysmic climate change, global greenhouse gas
emissions must ultimately be cut by between 60 and 90 percent.
It is widely agreed that we have less than 10 years before global emissions
must start to decline - as yet they are rising remorselessly. International
negotiations must deliver a fair, effective and equitable solution beyond
2012 that deepens reduction targets in the industrialised countries
and allows greater mitigation contributions from some of the larger
-- Support essential adaptation: Industrialised countries have committed
to providing financial and technical resources to developing countries,
but are failing to meet even the limited commitments they have made.
-- Empower poor communities to be part of the climate change solution:
Donor governments have emphasised the role of new technology, in particular
improving weather forecasting in Africa. But the development agencies
believe adaptation must be more than this: it has to be about strengthening
communities from the bottom up, building on coping strategies and empowering
local people to participate in the development of climate change policies.
-- Strengthen disaster risk reduction: Reducing vulnerability through
disaster risk reduction helps to build adaptive capacity for the future.
Communities can be protected from disasters relatively cheaply and simply
- the ways to do this are well developed and can be employed immediately.
Thousands of lives could be saved and economic losses prevented each
year if more emphasis was placed on this.
-- Reform emergency responses: For over 40 years emergency aid has remained
the chief instrument to address food crises. While saving lives, food
aid does not offer long-term solutions, and at worst may exacerbate
The humanitarian system must be overhauled. It must support people's
livelihoods as well as meeting the immediate needs of the hungry.
The type of aid is still often inappropriate - 70 percent of food aid
distributed by the UN is still the produce of rich nations.
-- To avoid food crises, poverty and power imbalances have to be tackled.
The number of people in sub-Saharan Africa who subsist on less than
one dollar a day has almost doubled since 1981, to 313 million people
- 46 percent of the population in 2001.
The majority of the continent's poorest and most undernourished people
live in rural areas - especially small-holders, nomadic pastoralists,
The need to give more support to small-scale farming is critical, yet
aid for agricultural production in sub-Saharan Africa dropped by 43
percent between 1990-92 and 2000-02.
The coalition concludes that Africa urgently needs a new model for human
development that is "climate proof and climate friendly and gives
everyone a fair share of the natural resources on which we all depend."
It warns that unless the international community takes urgent action
to reduce emissions, their efforts to end poverty in Africa will "go
up in smoke."
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