Climate Change and the Consequences for the African Continent

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Despite years of scientific warnings, it appears that the world is reaching a critical juncture in what might be the greatest epistemological threat to the human species ever faced: the climate crisis. A United Nations Climate Change study released on October 27, 2020, revealed some impending inferences about the global climate crisis and its repercussions on the African continent. According to the findings, rising temperatures caused by global warming, fluctuating hydrological cycles, and more weather extremes in Africa are endangering public health and welfare, agriculture, food security, as well as socio-cultural and economic growth and viability (“Climate Change Is An Increasing Threat To Africa”). The extreme climate changes are a major obstacle for the agricultural sector, and many African economies rely largely on agriculture; hence, climate change poses a major threat for the continent. Generally speaking, the climate crisis is expected to impact Africa more severely than other parts of the world.

In a 2018/9 climate report from the United Nations Africa Renewal, it was reported that; “West Africa has been identified as a climate-change hotspot, with climate change likely to lessen crop yields and production, with resultant impacts on food security”(Shepard), while, Southern Africa is expected to get drier as the twenty-first century progresses, with increased drought and heatwave occurrences (Shepard). Since Africa is such a large continent, climatic impacts vary greatly by region and no single climate effect applies to the whole continent. It is therefore anticipated that some parts of Africa will become drier, while others will get wetter, and although some regions may profit economically, the majority are predicted to suffer as a result of the climate crisis (Collier et al. 338). In general, climate change is projected to have a significant impact on Africa, particularly due to the continent’s heavy reliance on agriculture. According to a journal article titled, “Climate Change and Africa”, it is explained that:

“agriculture is the largest single economic activity in Africa, accounting for around 60 per cent of employment and, in some countries, more than 50 per cent of GDP. Some of this activity is already close to the limits of plant tolerance, so changing climate will have an immediate and direct effect, beyond that in many other regions of the world” (Collier et al. 338).

The continent is also afflicted by challenges of poverty and a vast population growth rate, and despite the fact that Africa possesses a varied range of natural resources, ecological relevance, industrial progress, and civilizations, there are obvious concerns such as commercialization of coastal regions and expansion into ecologically vulnerable areas (“Climate Change Is an Increasing Threat To Africa”). These are only a few of the challenges that may restrict the continent’s ability to adapt to the effects of climate change.

Climate change is one of the most serious dangers to mankind, with millions of regions and livelihoods already suffering as a result of its effects during recent decades. In 2015, several nations joined together to establish the historic Paris Agreement in order to confront the growing environmental crisis (Shepard). Under the terms of the Paris Agreement, the countries committed towards a goal of restricting emissions and aiming to keep climate change to below 2°C (Shepard). In November 2016, the agreement went into effect. The pact was officially signed by 184 nations, including virtually every African country.

The paper by Collier et al. is consistent with many recent United Nations climate assessments in emphasizing that climate change has very specific consequences for Africa and that Africa’s climate is expected to be affected more severely than in other areas (337). Fundamental challenges are evoked by the continent’s disproportionate resource distribution and changing climatic variations. Global greenhouse gas emissions are at an all-time high, placing the globe on a road toward undesirably rapid global warming, with significant consequences for Africa’s development prospects. In stark contradiction to the continent’s extreme vulnerability to the unprecedented ramifications of greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, Africa’s contribution towards global carbon emissions is relatively small, and the continent’s preceding emissions are also exceptionally low and are predicted to remain as such (Collier et al. 337). Reports and statements made by members of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have so far confirmed that Africa as a whole is extremely susceptible. Issues such as inadequate infrastructure and underdevelopment make many parts of the continent particularly unprepared and vulnerable to the effects of climatic change, this only further exacerbates the many challenges that the continent is already experiencing, such as poverty, wars, and social conflicts (Africa News). Thus, when it comes to discussing the ramifications of the catastrophic climate crisis, Africa is still confronted with a slightly more delicate situation. “Whereas in other regions the key issues concern how to reduce carbon emissions, in Africa they concern the adaptation of production to changing, and mostly deteriorating, opportunities. Further, whereas for other regions the main adverse consequences of global warming occur only far in the future and are uncertain, in Africa many of the adverse consequences are already apparent” (Collier et al. 337-8).

Despite the seriousness of the problem for Africa, there has been a failure to address it promptly and to guarantee that specialists and sponsors work together to remedy obvious gaps in climate research. Even with known and anticipated climatic changes in Africa, there remains a lack of data on global maps (Africa News). In Africa’s socioeconomic development strategy and practice, the lack of trustworthy and timely information contributes to Africa’s low adoption and usage of climate information services in socioeconomic planning and administration (“Climate Change Is an Increasing Threat to Africa”). Africa’s economy has not been particularly adaptable thus far. Although households have a lot of experience dealing with acute shocks, this defensive flexibility hasn’t been paired with a long-term capacity to adjust to changing conditions or adopt new technology (Collier et al. 338). H.E. Josefa Leonel Correia Sacko, Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture of the African Union Commission, emphasized this point with the assertion that:

“Science-based climate information is the foundation of resilience building, a cornerstone of climate change adaptation, as well as an oasis for sustainable livelihoods and development. The State of Climate Report for Africa has, therefore, a critical role to play in this respect, including in informing our actions for achieving the goals of the Africa Agenda 2063” (“Climate Change Is an Increasing Threat to Africa”).

The continent’s projected climate change challenges may provide substantial possibilities for collaboration among African countries. For instance, countries set national pledges to decrease emissions and improve resilience as part of the Paris Agreement. Additionally, the Paris Agreement also advocated for more monetary aid from wealthier nations to help fund and support developing nations’ climate change efforts (“Climate Change Is an Increasing Threat to Africa”). One statement released by World Meteorological Organization (WMO) Secretary-General Petteri Taalas, on October 2020, stated that:

“Climate change is having a growing impact on the African continent, hitting the most vulnerable hardest, and contributing to food insecurity, population displacement and stress on water resources. In recent months we have seen devastating floods, an invasion of desert locusts and now face the looming spectre of drought because of a La Niña event. The human and economic toll has been aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic” (“Climate Change Is an Increasing Threat to Africa”).

Despite the fact that this comprehensive set of new climate change developments looks to be largely negative, it is important to emphasize that, from another perspective, some of these complex changes may contribute positively – provided the possibilities for adaptation and acclimation are properly exploited (Collier et al. 338). Ultimately, public responses will determine the economic repercussions of the developments that result from climate change, and governments and communities can significantly reduce negative outcomes while promoting positives (Collier et al. 338).

Another important point to note is that climate change initiatives in Africa must include people of colour (Mjiyakho et al.). This is because, statistically speaking, it appears that they will be the most affected by the climate crisis, particularly in Black rural areas (Mjiyakho et al.). In South Africa, for example, there is a vast disparity in land and resource ownership that dates back to and stems from apartheid, placing the vast majority of Black rural communities at a significant disadvantage when it comes to the consequences of climate change.

 

The Youth and Climate Change

Climate change is already taking place, and young people and children are being forced to grow up in an increasingly dangerous world as climate change disrupts the environment. Especially in rural regions, the climate crisis is a disaster that jeopardizes their health, nutrition, education, development, survival, and future (“The Impacts of Climate Change Put Almost Every Child at Risk”). While a number of African governments have repeatedly demonstrated that either they do not comprehend or they repudiate the severity of the climate issue, the youth remain plagued by concerns, including the fact that they are significantly under-represented in government. The increase in potentially disastrous occurrences induced by climate change has resulted in increased worry among the youth, who are concerned about their future: “the planet is dying and our future is fading with it” (Mjiyakho et al.). In response to the climate crisis, young people throughout the world established a series of notable climate justice initiatives, including “the Sunrise Movement (United States) and, most notably, Fridays For Future (International)” (Mjiyakho et al.). Finally, in 2019, a Youth Climate Movement in South Africa gained some traction.

Today’s youth will be the ones who suffer the most as the impact of climate change increases over time. It is a positive note that, rather than being passive victims, young people have started to fight back on a broader level. Social media plays an essential role in eliciting a response to climate change. Activism, advocacy, and raising awareness is critical in ensuring that youth have a brighter and more secure future. Social media platforms are very participatory, and they have the ability to create a useful arena for youth, as well as the general public, to alert people, impact policy agenda, and push for difficult debates and discussions (Kachali 1). Another notable climate justice initiative is the African Climate Alliance, founded by young climate activists Ruby Sampson and Yola Mgogwana. According to its website, the African Climate Alliance is a youth-led organization that advocates for climate, environmental, and social justice. The initiative began in Cape Town, South Africa with a small group of individuals who co-organized the first large-scale climate protest in March 2019. Soon after, the organization evolved into the well-known African Climate Alliance, an organisation that consists of a youth group, volunteer coordinators, adult sponsors, and allies in over eight different African nations.

The leaders of a climate justice movement called the Collective Movement reported to an African press that “The climate justice movement is calling for that systemic change, but as yet we have not been effective enough in educating people about how desperate we are for systemic change” (Mjiyakho et al). When it comes to climate change, it is critical to recognize that approaching the issue on an individual basis is very impractical; what is required is a structural transformation, and public pressure and action is required to exert pressure on higher authorities to address and acknowledge Africa’s climate issue. Real political reform and action are required for the climate justice campaign to be effective (Mjiyakho et al). So far, the Collective Movement has achieved some progress, most notably by launching an educational outreach program that teaches youth about what climate change means for them and their communities.

In conclusion, while climate change is not Africa’s fault, parts of the continent are likely to be among the hardest hit in the world due to its geography, agricultural dependence, and challenges of adaptation (Collier et al. 352). In many parts of Africa, climate change extremes are a key obstacle to agricultural system resilience. This exacerbates the crisis since many African economies rely on agriculture, and most regions are sensitive to weather fluctuations. Since climate change is already in effect, today’s youth will be the ones who suffer the most as the impact continues to increase with each passing year. Given the vulnerability of the youth, they must fight back by utilizing new technology and other direct forms of activism to raise awareness about the severe effects of climate change. They will need to advocate for a brighter future for their generation as well as future generations.

 

 

Works Cited

Africa News. “What Does the UN Climate Report Mean for Africa?” Africanews, Africanews, 9 Aug. 2021, www.africanews.com/2021/08/09/what-does-the-un-climate-report-mean-for-africa/.

“African Climate Alliance – A Youth-Led Affinity Group Delivering Dynamic Afro-Centred

Climate Action”. Africanclimatealliance.Org, 7 Sept 2021, africanclimatealliance.org.

“Climate Change Is An Increasing Threat To Africa.” Unfccc.int, Unfccc, 2021, unfccc.int/news/climate-change-is-an-increasing-threat-to-africa.

Collier, Paul, Gordon Conway, and Tony Venables. “Climate change and Africa.”

Oxford Review of Economic Policy 24.2 (2008): 337-353.

Mjiyakho, Yakhani Charlotte, et al. “MAVERICK Citizen: OP-ED: Young People and the Climate Crisis: The Challenge of Building an Intersectional Justice Movement.” Daily Maverick, 7 Sept. 2021, www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2021-03-07-young-people-and-the-climate-crisis-the-challenge-of-building-an-intersectional-justice-movement/.

Shepard, Dan. “Global Warming: Severe Consequences for Africa | Africa Renewal.” United Nations, United Nations, 2021, www.un.org/africarenewal/magazine/december-2018-march-2019/global-warming-severe-consequences-africa.

“The Impacts of Climate Change Put Almost Every Child at Risk.” UNICEF, 19 Aug. 2021, www.unicef.org/stories/impacts-climate-change-put-almost-every-child-risk.

 

Image: Matt Chinworth / Internet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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