Climate Change and Africa


Climate change and Africa

Current greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from Africa are of little importance on a global scale, and have contributed only a negligible share to the build-up of GHGs in the atmosphere so far. Still, Africa's share of global emissions may increase considerably in the future, due to the following factors: . (i) population growth, (ii) economic growth; (iii) energy intensity, i.e. the amount of energy consumed per unit output; (iv) use of fossil fuels; (v) deforestation rates; and (vi) burning of vegetation.

However, Africa is particularly vulnerable to climate change. Any significant incrase in mean global temperatures of the scale outlined in the Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change could result in significant chnges in precipitation, evaporation and hydrology, sea-level rise, and changes in the occurrence of extreme weather events (floods, droughts, storms) that would impact on primary production, ecological systems, public health and poverty.

Africa's Vulnerability to Climate Change

Although Africa has not contributed in a significant way to the build of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere, it is anticipated that a given change in climate will result in more adverse socio-economic impacts in Africa than in other parts of the world. This relates to several factors related to the vulnerability of society and the sensitivity of the environment. Important factors here are high dependency on bio-fuels, high dependency on the agriculture and forest sectors, restricted population mobility, poor health facilities, high population growth rates and low material standards. Furthermore, countries in Africa tend to have a much higher share of their economy dependent on climate-sensitive sectors such as agriculture than is the case on other continents. Developing countries in general have a low institutional and financial capacity to adapt to changes. Thus, it seems obvious that improved adaptation capability should be of a significant priority than among African countries in the years to come.

Adapting to Climate Change

Adaptation measures are a series of policies that reduce the vulnerability of natural systems, human population and economies to climate stresses and climate change. This can be achieved through:

(i) the development and implementation of initiatives that promote equity and sustainable development;
(ii) the consideration of climatic risks in the design and implementation of national and international development initiatives;
(iii) a series of targeted interventions that are aimed at minimizing the impact of climate change. With regards to agriculture, adaptation measures would be aimed at coping with long-term climate-induced crop yield losses and livestock production systems. Adaptation measures could include: adjustments to planting dates; changes in fertilization; irrigation applications; cultivar traits, selection of animal species, and reduced utilization of marginal lands.


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