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Africa: Up in Smoke?
Nov 5, 2006 (061105)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
"The level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is historically a
result of rich world activity. Therefore to be fair, the rich world
should bear the full costs of adapting to climate change, at least
in the early years." - Working Group on Climate Change and
The Working Group on Climate Change and Development includes
ITDGPractical Action, ActionAid, Christian Aid, Oxfam GB, Tearfund,
WaterAid, World Vision, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Worldwide
Fund for Nature and the RSPB. The Up in Smoke reports are published
by New Economics Foundation.
This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains excerpts from a report by the
Working Group on Climate Change and Development on Africa and
global warming, as well as from an announcement of a new report
released today in Nairobi by the UN Environment Programme. Another
AfricaFocus Bulletin sent out today contains excerpts from the
conclusions on the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change.
++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++++++++
Africa - Up in Smoke 2
The second report on Africa and global warming from the Working
Group on Climate Change and Development
"Africa of course is ... seen by experts as particularly vulnerable
to climate change. The size of its land mass means that in the
middle of the continent, overall rises in temperature will be up to
double the global rise, with increased risk of extreme droughts,
floods and outbreaks of disease." - Tony Blair, January 2005
Summary and recommendations
[October 2006 update]
Too much or too little rain can be a matter of life or death in
Africa. At different times and in different places across the
continent, climate change threatens both. This briefing brings up
to date the original report from the Working Group on Climate
Change and Development, Africa - Up in Smoke?, released in 2005.
Our overarching conclusion then, which is even more pressing now,
was that: "A new model of development is called for, one in which
strategies to increase human resilience in the face of climate
change and the stability of ecosystems are central. It calls for a
new test for every policy and project, in which the key question
will be, "Are you increasing or decreasing people's vulnerability
to the climate?". Above all, the challenge calls for a new
flexibility and not a one-size-fits-all, neoliberal-driven approach
to development. Just as an investment portfolio spreads risk by
including a variety of stocks and shares, so an agricultural system
geared to manage the risks of changing climate requires a rich
diversity of approaches in terms of what is grown, and how it is
Today, new scientific research and evidence from our coalition's
work in the field find that the climate change threat to human
development in Africa is even greater. To combat the threat, we
make these urgent recommendations to the international community:
Cut rich country greenhouse gas emissions
The first priority must be to cut global greenhouse gas emissions,
so that average temperatures do not rise more than 2 degrees C
above pre-industrial levels - a goal of the EU since 1996.
Scientists say that the threat of major and irreversible climate
changes, with potentially enormously damaging impacts, becomes far
greater as temperatures increase. Africa's contribution to
greenhouse gas emissions is negligible so to address this injustice
the onus falls fairly and squarely on the rich nations whose
historical and continued profligate use of carbon is to blame for
most of the current warming trends. ....
Build on Kyoto to toughen up international efforts post-2012
Above all, the growing global climate crisis, manifested not only
in Africa but also by extraordinary events from droughts in the
Amazon to catastrophic floods in the deserts of Rajastan, shows the
absolute urgency for action on a global scale. To avoid possibly
cataclysmic climate change global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions
must ultimately be cut by between 60 and 90 per cent. We have less
than 10 years before global emissions must start to decline -
instead they are rising remorselessly. This means there is not a
moment to lose.
The negotiations under way in the UN Framework Convention on
Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the Kyoto Protocol must deliver a fair,
effective and equitable Protocol beyond 2012 that deepens the GHG
reduction targets in the industrialized countries and allows
greater mitigation contributions from some of the larger developing
countries. These negotiations must be completed by 2008 to ensure
that there is no gap between the first commitment period of the
Kyoto protocol, which ends in 2012, and the second commitment
Support essential adaptation
The legacy of higher historical emissions places the onus on
industrialised countries to take the lead in significant cuts in
greenhouse gases. It also reinforces the need to support adaptation
in developing countries, particularly in the poorest countries that
have contributed least to causing global warming.
Industrialised countries committed to providing financial and
technical resources to developing countries under the UNFCCC, as
well as through other political declarations. This support may come
in a range of ways, including increased bilateral and multilateral
funding related to adaptation, assistance with research and climate
monitoring, contributions to the Global Environment Facility, as
well as contributions to the various adaptation funds established
under the UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol. ...
Empower poor communities to be part of the climate change solution
Recently donor governments have emphasised the role of new
technology - in particular, how to improve weather forecasting in
Africa. Development groups, however, believe adaptation must be
more than this: it has to be about strengthening communities from
the bottom-up, building on their own coping strategies to live with
climate change and empowering them to participate in the
development of climate change policies. ...
Strengthen Disaster Risk Reduction
When dealing with the uncertainties of climate change, reducing
vulnerability to today's climate through disaster risk reduction
(DRR) is an excellent method of building adaptive capacity for the
future. Communities can be protected from disasters relatively
cheaply and simply - tools and methodologies are well developed and
can be employed immediately in communities. Thousands of lives
could be saved and economic losses prevented each year if more
emphasis was placed on this. The climate change community therefore
needs to recognise that DRR is a vital component of climate change
adaptation. It should work with the disaster management community
to advance both fields and avoid duplicating activities.
Governments must also fulfill their previous commitments on DRR.
Reform emergency responses
While conditions vary greatly, across Sub-Saharan Africa as a whole
thirty-three per cent of people are under-nourished, compared with
17 per cent of people in all developing countries. The proportion
rises to 55 per cent in Central Africa. The average number of food
emergencies in Africa per year almost tripled since the mid 1980s
Climate change is a new and unprecedented threat to food security.
These failures stem in part from the fact that for over 40 years
emergency aid, and food aid in particular, has remained the chief
instrument to address food crises. Food aid does save lives, but it
does not offer long-term solutions, and at worst it may exacerbate
The emergency, or 'humanitarian', system must be overhauled, so
that it is truly able to deliver prompt, effective assistance on
the basis of need. ...
Tackle poverty - rural livelihoods for the most vulnerable and
boosting small-scale agriculture
More fundamentally, if food crises are to be averted, much more
must be done to tackle the root causes of hunger. That means
tackling poverty and the power imbalances that underpin it. The
number of people in sub-Saharan Africa who subsist on less than a
dollar a day has almost doubled since 1981, to 313 million people
in 2001, representing 46 per cent of the population. Even allowing
for the extraordinary pace of urbanisation in Africa, the majority
of the continent's poorest and most undernourished people live in
rural areas - especially smallholders, nomadic pastoralists and
women. The joint effort promised by African governments and donor
governments to eradicate poverty must therefore deliver rural
policies that involve and prioritise these vulnerable groups. Even
small improvements in what they produce and earn, in access to
health, education and clean water, will have major impacts in
reducing hunger, as well as driving equitable growth. ...
Up in smoke? - the first report from the Working Group on Climate
Change and Development - joined the environment and development
communities in a united view on the minimum action necessary to
deal with the threat of global warming to human development. The
proposals it called for in October 2005 are now more pressing than
Three overarching challenges include:
- How to stop and reverse further global warming.
- How to live with the degree of global warming that cannot be
- How to design a new model for human progress and development
that is climate proof and climate friendly and gives everyone a
fair share of the natural resources on which we all depend.
In that light, our urgent priorities include:
- A global risk assessment of the likely costs of adaptation to
climate change in poor countries.
- Commensurate new funds and other resources made available by
industrialized countries for poor country adaptation, bearing in
mind that rich-country subsidies to their domestic, fossil-fuel
industries stood at US$7 billion per year in the late 1990s.
- Effective and efficient arrangements to respond to the increasing
burden of climate-related disaster relief.
- Development models based on risk reduction, incorporating
community-driven coping strategies in adaptation and disaster
- Disaster awareness campaigns with materials produced at community
level and made available in local languages.
- Co-ordinated plans, from local to international levels, for
relocating threatened communities with appropriate political, legal
and financial resources.
In addition to these, as organisations striving to improve human
well-being in the face of enormous challenges, we will:
- Work towards a collective understanding of the threat.
- Share the best of our knowledge about how to build human and
ecosystem resilience and live with the degree of global warming
that is now unstoppable.
- Do everything in our power to stop dangerous climate change and
help bring about a global solution that is fair and rooted in human
New Report Underlines Africa's Vulnerability to Climate Change.
United Nations Environment Programme
[For More Information Please Contact Nick Nuttall, UNEP
Spokesperson, Office of the Executive Director, on Tel: +254 20 762
3084; Mobile: +254 733 632 755, E-mail: email@example.com
Or John Hay, UNFCCC Secretariat Spokesperson, on Tel: + 254 727 534
419, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Or Mark Oliver, Press Officer, Communications and Public Affairs
Office, World Meteorological Organization. Tel: +41 (0)22 730 84
17, E-mail: email@example.com
Carine Richard-Van Maele, Chief, Communications and Public Affairs,
WMO.Tel: +41 (0)22 730 83 15. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org]
Nairobi, 5 November 2006 - Assisting developing countries to adapt
to the impacts of global warming, especially those in Africa must
be a key focus of the latest round of climate change talks which
open tomorrow in Nairobi.
A new report on impacts, vulnerability and adaptation in Africa,
released by the Secretariat of the United Nations Framework
Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and based on data from bodies
including the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World
Meteorological Organization (WMO) indicates that the continent's
vulnerability to climate change is even more acute than had
previously been supposed.
It is estimated, for example, that 30 per cent of Africa's coastal
infrastructure could be inundated including coastal settlements in
the Gulf of Guinea, Senegal, the Gambia and Egypt.
Between 25 per cent and over 40 per cent of species' habitats in
Africa could be lost by 2085.
Cereal crop yields will decline by up to five per cent by the 2080s
with subsistence crops - like sorghum in Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea
and Zambia; maize in Ghana, millet in Sudan and groundnuts in the
Gambia - also suffering climate-linked falls.
Meanwhile part of Africa's current and future adaptation needs must
include improvements in climate and weather monitoring capabilities
and better links between climate research and policy-making. ...
Michel Jarraud, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological
Organisation (WMO) said: "Africa is the largest of all tropical
landmasses and, at 30 million square km, is about a fifth of the
world's total land area. Yet the climate observing system in Africa
is in a far worse and deteriorating state than that of any other
Latest estimates indicate that about 25 per cent out of the Global
Climate Observing System surface stations in east and southern
Africa are not working and most of the remaining stations are
functioning in a less than desirable manner. Around a fifth of the
10 upper air network stations are in a similar state.
"Meanwhile there are also major impacts in highly elevated areas
like Mount Kenya and Mount Kilimanjaro whose glaciers, ice caps and
run off are important for water supplies. Overall it is estimated
that Africa needs 200 automatic weather stations, a major effort to
rescue historical data and improved training and capacity building
on climate and weather reporting," he said. ...
Fighting climate change must be a two-tier attack. Adaptation is
important-- but it is also critical that greenhouse gas emissions
are cut by an eventual 80 per cent in order to stabilize the
atmosphere for current and future generations.
The new report has been prepared with the help of a team led by Dr.
Baglis Osman Elasha, Senior Researcher in the Climate Change Unit
of the Higher Council for Environment and Natural Resources in the
Sudanese Ministry of the Environment.
"We are already seeing climate related changes in my country. The
Gum Arabic belt, an economically important crop, has shifted
southwards below latitude 14 degrees north and the rains which used
to occur from mid June to the end of August now start in mid July
until the end of September with important ramifications for
agriculture and livelihoods," she said.
The report was designed to inform participants at the African
regional workshop on adaptation, which was held from September 21
to 23, 2006 in Accra, Ghana.
At the workshop, 33 African country Parties exchanged information
on observing climatic changes and assessing their impacts and
countries' vulnerability to these changes. Countries also shared
their experiences in planning and implementing concrete adaptation
measures in the areas of agriculture and food security, water
resources, health and coastal zones. ...
Key Findings from the Report
Sea levels could rise by 15 to 95 cm by 2100, according to some
estimates. The number of people at risk in Africa from coastal
flooding will rise from one million in 1990 to 70 million by 2080.
An estimated 30 per cent of Africa's coastal infrastructure could
be at risk including coastal settlements in the Gulf of Guinea,
Senegal, the Gambia, and Egypt.
Along the East-Southern African coast cities at risk include Cape
Town, Maputo and Dar Es-Salaam.
A one metre rise in the Atlantic will lead to part of the economic
capital of Lagos, Nigeria, disappearing. Alexandria in Egypt could
also be severely impacted costing that country over $30 billion a
year in lost land, infrastructure and tourist revenues.
A sea level rise of 50 cm would inundate 2,000 square km of land in
Tanzania costing around $50 million.
Biodiversity and Ecosystems
Habitats and ecosystems in Africa are currently under threat from
a variety of impacts and climate change is likely to be an
One study, examining over 5,000 plant species in Africa, has
concluded that around 80 to well over 90 per cent of species'
suitable habitats will decrease in size or shift due to climate
By 2085, between 25 per cent and over 40 per cent of species'
habitats could be lost altogether.
Shifts in rainfall patterns could affect the fynbos and karoo in
southern Africa by altering the fire regime critical for their
Mountain biodiversity could be affected in east Africa where there
is little opportunity to move to higher elevations.
Wetland ecosystems such as the Okavanga Delta and the Sudd area
could be impacted by decreased run off.
The coastal zones are also likely to be impacted by climate change
with reduced fish productivity, coral bleaching, salt water
intrusion, loss of beach facilities and tourism revenues.
Agriculture, Water Supplies and Land
Many of Africa's regions are coming to be recognised as having
climates that are the most variable in the world on intra-seasonal
and decadal timescales.
Just over 50 per cent of Africa's 812 million people have access to
safe drinking water. Three quarters of the population utilize
groundwater supplies to a greater or lesser extent.
Around half of Africa's cultivable land is arid and semi-arid.
About 65 per cent of the croplands and 30 per cent of pastureland
is affected by degradation with resultant declines in crop yields
and food insecurity.
Just under 15 per cent of degraded soils are as a result of
vegetation removal including forests; 13 per cent from
over-exploitation, almost half from overgrazing and around a
quarter from agricultural activities.
Africa accounts for nearly 30 per cent of land degradation globally
with 500 million hectares moderately to severely degraded.
70 per cent of people in Africa and nearly 90 per cent of the poor
primarily work in agriculture.
Agriculture accounts for 20 to 30 per cent of the GDP in
sub-Saharan Africa and represents 55 per cent of total African
Over 95 per cent of Africa's agriculture depends on rainfall.
Models indicate that 80,000 square km of agricultural land in
sub-Saharan Africa currently deemed constrained will improve as a
result of climate change.
However, 600,000 square km currently classed as moderately
constrained will become severely limited.
Experts estimate that cereal crop yields will decline by up to five
per cent by the 2080s. There will be a general decline also in most
subsistence crops such as sorghum in Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea and
Zambia; maize in Ghana, millet in Sudan and groundnuts in the
Africa has warmed by 0.7 degrees C during the 20th century with
very high temperature records occurring towards the end of the
century. 1995 and 1998 were the two warmest years.
An average 25 per cent decrease in rainfall has occurred over the
Sahel during the past 30 years. Precipitation has fallen by up to
2.4 per cent per decade in tropical rainforests regions of Africa
since the mid-1970s. The rate of decline has been fastest in West
Africa and north Congo. (which Congo)
Droughts have particularly affected the Sahel, the Horn of Africa
and Southern Africa since the end of the 1960s. ...
Future rainfall patterns are not clear cut but it is likely that
over the next 50 years there will be a decrease in rainfall of 10
to 25 per cent over northern parts of Africa in the months of June,
July and August and a 10 to 60 per cent decline in March, April and
In contrast, western Africa may see an increase in rainfall of 10
to 35 per cent in the December, January and February period which
is normally a dry time with an increase also during September,
October and November of between seven and 28 per cent.
By 2025 approximately 480 million people in Africa could be living
in water scarce or water stressed areas.
Overall experts expect extreme events including droughts and floods
Weather and Climate Monitoring Gaps
Even Africa's conventional weather forecasting stations, also
import for climate modelling and adaptation strategies, are thin on
There are just over 1,150 World Weather Watch stations in Africa
giving a density of one per 26,000 square km - eight times lower
than the World Meteorological Organisation's minimum recommended
Meanwhile little of Africa's historical climate and weather data is
being used to further refine climate forecasting and assist in
better adaptation and coping strategies.
This is because much of the historical information remains
paper-based and is inaccessible to scientists who need digital
information to feed super computer models.
Other areas of concern include a lack of good monitoring of the El
Nino Southern Oscillation as it relates to Africa; the onset of the
Sahel precipitation and the interaction of Saharan dust with
Up to one billion tonnes of dust is exported from the Sahel-Sahara
region annually crossing north Africa and travelling as far as
Europe, western Asia and the Americas.
The frequency of dust storms has increased in some parts of the
Sahel from the wet 1950s-1960s to the dry periods of the
Notes to Editors
For the full report, please see http://www.unep.org
Details of the second meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol
(COP/MOP 2), taking place in Nairobi from 6 to 17 November 2006,
can be found at http://www.unfccc.int
UNEP climate change resources are at
WMO climate change resources are at The Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change: http://www.ipcc.ch
The World Climate Programme:
The World Climate Research Programme: http://www.wmo.ch/web/wcrp/
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