Africa has been dealing with the impacts of climate change since the 1970s. The most recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) described the African continent as the one that will be most affected.
The economic landscape of most Africa countries depends essentially on the dynamics of climate change. Key sectors driving their economic performance and livelihoods such as agriculture, forestry, energy, tourism, coastal and water resources are highly vulnerable to climate change. The geographical location of most African countries on the lower latitudes has already put the region at a disadvantage where about 80 percent of damages from climate change are concentrated.
Over the past five decades (1960-2009), many countries in Africa (e.g. Sudan, Chad, Uganda, Botswana and Tunisia) have experienced substantial rise in temperature – ranging from 1o to over 3o Celsius. The increasing knowledge that the continent contributes least to carbon finger print but experiences the most severe impact of climate change provides incentives for Africa to understand the costs of climate change to its economy and development prospects with a view to informing policy decisions. This is not only as a result of losses to the economy that might be linked to reduced agricultural productivity and labor losses but also from increases in morbidity, mortality and social instabilities. These indirect impacts such as death and disabilities associated with climate change have irreversible economic and welfare consequences. When countries spend some resources to adapt to climate change, they incur opportunity costs of not spending it on research and development and capital investment (e.g. infrastructure) that is a binding constraint to growth and development.
IMPACT ON AFRICA:
- Between 75-250 million people exposed to water stress in the next 10 years, and as many as 1.8 billion by the end of this century.
- Agriculture fed by rain could drop 50% in some African countries by 2020. The IPCC report predicts that wheat may disappear from Africa by 2080, and that maize—a staple—will fall significantly in southern Africa.
- Arid and semi-arid lands are likely to increase by up to 8%, with severe ramifications for livelihoods, poverty eradication and meeting and maintaining the Millennium Development Goals.
In future, whether the issue is climate change or development at large, the challenge is the same—human capacity is critical. One perquisite for this is good, solid internet connectivity. And for the depth and breadth of challenges that Africa faces with climate change, the country desperately needs frontier/leap-frog science and entrepreneurship.