Though Africa contributes very little to climate change, Climate change in Africa is a major problem and this is mainly because of the vulnerability of many African countries. In this article, we will discuss the little way Africa contributes to climate change and what major impacts they face noting Africa’s vulnerability.
While Africa has made a minor contribution to climate change, accounting for around two to three percent of global emissions, it is proportionally the world’s most susceptible region.
Africa is facing exponential collateral damage, posing systemic threats to its economies, infrastructure investments, water and food systems, public health, agriculture, and livelihoods, threatening to reverse its meager development gains and push the continent into deeper poverty.
The continent’s current low levels of socioeconomic progress are to blame for this vulnerability. While climate change affects everyone, the poor are disproportionately affected.
This is due to a lack of means to purchase the goods and services necessary to buffer and recover from the harshest consequences of climate change. Rain-fed agriculture accounts for 95 percent of all agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Agriculture’s major share of GDP and employment, as well as other weather-sensitive activities like herding and fishing, contribute to vulnerability, resulting in income losses and increasing food poverty.
Africa is home to seven of the top ten countries most vulnerable to climate change. Four African countries were among the top ten most affected in 2015: Mozambique, Malawi, Ghana, and Madagascar (joint 8th position).
The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) coordinates the State of the Climate in Africa 2019 report, which provides a picture of the present and prospective climate trends, as well as their impacts on the economy and sensitive sectors like agriculture.
It outlines strategies for addressing significant gaps and difficulties and emphasizes lessons for climate action in Africa.
Table of Contents
Causes of Climate Change in Africa
Climate change in Africa is caused by several factors, including
- Loss of Ozone Layer
- Increased CO2 Concentration
Deforestation is one of the causes of climate change in Africa. Forests have several social, economic, and environmental advantages. They also help to combat climate change by facilitating photosynthesis, which creates oxygen (O2) while consuming massive amounts of CO2 that contribute to global warming.
Deforestation has drastically reduced the number of trees available to absorb CO2 through photosynthesis. In most African countries, people cut down trees for lumber or to clear space for farming or construction.
This has the potential to both liberate carbon stored in trees and lower the number of trees available to absorb CO2. The carbon intake through the forest and non-forest tree growth, as well as abandonment of managed lands, was estimated to be 36.75 TgCO2 in Nigeria in 1994. (10.02 TgCO2-C).
Carbon emissions from biomass harvesting and conversion of forests and savanna to agricultural lands were predicted to be 112.23 TgCO2 in the same study (30.61 TgCO2-C). This resulted in a net CO2 emission of 75.54 Tg (20.6 Tg CO2-C).
2. Loss of Ozone Layer
Loss of the ozone layer is one of the causes of climate change in Africa. Ozone is a naturally occurring and man-made gas. The ozone layer is a layer of ozone in the upper atmosphere that protects both plant and animal life on Earth from the sun’s harmful UV and infrared rays.
The ozone in the lower atmosphere, on the other hand, is a component of smog and is a greenhouse gas. Unlike other greenhouse gases, which are widely distributed throughout the atmosphere, ozone in the lower atmosphere is confined to urban areas.
When harmful gases or repellents are released into the atmosphere through industries, automobile exhaust pipes, air conditioning systems, and freezers, the ozone layer is reduced.
These materials emit compounds that deplete the ozone layer, such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFC), carbon monoxide (CO2), hydrocarbons, smoke, soots, dust, nitrous oxide, and sulfur oxide.
3. Increased CO2 Concentration
As part of the environmental problem Africa faces, the increased CO2 concentration in the atmosphere is one of the causes of climate change in Africa. Increased Natural activities like volcano eruptions, animal respiration, and the burning or death of plants and other organic things emit CO2 into the atmosphere.
CO2 is released into the atmosphere by human activities such as burning fossil fuels, solid wastes, and wood products to heat homes, operate vehicles and create power. CO2 concentrations have risen since the mid-1700s industrial revolution.
The IPCC announced in 2007 that CO2 levels had reached a new high of 379ppm and were rising at a rate of 1.9ppm per year. CO2 levels are expected to reach 970 ppm by 2100 under a higher emission scenario, more than triple pre-industrial levels.
The detrimental effects of such a trend in CO2 concentrations, particularly on agricultural systems, are exceedingly worrying and deadly.
Gas flaring, for example, provided 58.1 million tonnes, or 50.4 percent, of total CO2 emissions from the energy sector in Nigeria in 1994. Liquid and gaseous fuel usage in the sector resulted in CO2 emissions of 51.3 and 5.4 million tons, respectively.
4. Greenhouse Effect
The greenhouse effect is one of the causes of climate change in Africa. The greenhouse effect is the ability of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere (such as water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, ozone, chlorofluorocarbons, hydro-chlorofluorocarbons, hydro-fluorocarbons, and perfluorocarbons) to trap heat emitted from earth surfaces, thereby insulating and warming the planet in a blanketing or layer of greenhouse gases.
As a result of innovations that burn fossil fuels, as well as other activities such as clearing land for agriculture or construction, these atmospheric gases concentrate, not only causing air pollution but also causing the earth’s climate to become warmer than it would be naturally. Greenhouse gases are produced both naturally and as a result of human activities. Human activities have no direct effect on the amount of water vapor in the atmosphere.
Carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and ozone are all naturally occurring gases in the atmosphere, but they are also being created in unprecedented amounts as a result of human activity. Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydro-chlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), hydro-fluorocarbons (HFCs), and perfluorocarbons are examples of human-made greenhouse gases (PFCs).
Aerosols being one of the causes of climate change in Africa are airborne particles that absorb, scatter, and reflect radiation into space. Natural aerosols include clouds, windblown dust, and particles that can be traced back to erupting volcanoes. Human activities like fossil fuel combustion and slash-and-burn farming add to the number of aerosols.
Although aerosols are not heat-trapping greenhouse gas, they do have an impact on the transmission of heat energy from the planet to space. Although the impact of light-colored aerosols on climate change is still being contested, climate scientists believe that dark-colored aerosols (soot) contribute to warming.
Agriculture plays a role in causing climate change in Africa. Agriculture, as well as other weather-sensitive activities like herding and fishing, account for a major portion of Africa’s GDP and employment.
Clearing forests for fields, burning crop leftovers, drowning the land in rice paddies, growing vast herds of cattle and other ruminants, and fertilizing with nitrogen all contribute to climate change by releasing greenhouse gases into the sky.
Effects of Climate Change in Africa
Below are the effects of climate change in Africa
- Increased Temperatures
- Water Supply and Quality Impacts
- Economic Impacts
- Impacts on Human Health
- Impact on Rural Areas
- Consequences for Vulnerable Populations
- National Security Consequences
- Ecological Consequences
Flooding is one of the effects of climate change in Africa. they are the most common natural disaster in North Africa, the second in East, South, and Central Africa, and the third in West Africa. In North Africa, the devastating flood of 2001 in northern Algeria resulted in approximately 800 deaths and a $400 million economic loss.
The floods of 2000 in Mozambique (exacerbated by two cyclones) killed 800 people, displaced about 2 million people (of whom about 1 million needed food), and damaged agricultural production areas.
2. Increased Temperatures
Global temperatures are expected to rise by 3 degrees Celsius this century. Climate change in Africa will have an impact on precipitation. At 1.5° C, the Limpopo basin and sections of the Zambezi basin in Zambia, as well as parts of the Western Cape in South Africa, would receive less rain.
The number of hot days in West and Central Africa will grow dramatically at 1.5° C and 2° C. Temperatures in Southern Africa are anticipated to climb at a quicker rate of 2° C, with places in the southwestern region, particularly in South Africa and parts of Namibia and Botswana, expected to face the largest temperature rises. This is mainly caused by deforestation.
According to Mr. Thiaw, drought, desertification, and resource scarcity have exacerbated disputes between crop farmers and cattle herders, and poor governance has resulted in social breakdowns.
As social values and moral authority fade, the shrinkage of Lake Chad due to climate change in Africa causes economic marginalization and provides fertile ground for terrorist recruiting.
4. Water Supply and Quality Impacts
Flooding, drought, changes in rainfall distribution, river drying, glacier melting, and the receding of bodies of water are all visible ways water resources have been affected by climate change in Africa.
When the water levels of Africa’s massive rivers fall, entire economies collapse. Ghana, for example, has grown completely reliant on the Akosombo dam on the Volta River’s hydroelectric output. Mali’s food, water, and transportation are all reliant on the Niger River.
However, pollution has caused environmental destruction along with large parts of the river. In Nigeria, half the population lives without access to potable drinking water.
Glaciers of Kilimanjaro
Climate change is responsible for the gradual but catastrophic retreat of Mount Kilimanjaro’s glaciers. Several rivers are now drying up due to the glaciers acting as a water towers. According to estimates, 82 percent of the ice that capped the mountain when it was initially observed in 1912 has since melted.
5. Economic Impacts
The economic impacts of climate change in Africa are massive. By 2050, Sub-Saharan Africa’s gross domestic product (GDP) might be reduced by up to 3%. Global poverty is one of the world’s most serious issues, even without the negative effects of climate change.
One in every three Africans, or over 400 million people, is estimated to live below the global poverty level of less than $1.90 a day. The world’s poorest inhabitants are frequently hungry, have limited access to education, lack lighting at night, and have terrible health.
Agriculture is essential for Africa’s economic development. Climate change in Africa has the potential to destabilize local markets, exacerbate food insecurity, impede economic growth, and put agriculture sector investors at risk.
Agriculture in Africa is particularly sensitive to the effects of climate change since it is primarily reliant on rainfall, which has been severely impacted by climate change across the continent.
The Sahel, for example, relies heavily on rain-fed agriculture and is already subjected to droughts and floods, which both damage crops and lower productivity.
African countries would experience shorter wet spells (leading to droughts) or heavier rains (producing floods) as temperatures rise 1.5 times faster than the rest of the world by the end of the century, resulting in reduced food production due to a lack of infrastructure and support systems.
Crop yields are expected to decline by varied percentages across the continent by 2030, depending on the location. Southern Africa, for example, is predicted to have a 20% reduction in rainfall.
7. Impacts on Human Health
One of the major effects of climate change in Africa is its impact on human health. In poor countries with little means to treat and prevent illness, climate-sensitive diseases and health consequences can be severe. Frequent and severe heat stress linked to sustained temperature increases are examples of climate-related health consequences.
- The drop in air quality that commonly comes with a heatwave can make breathing difficult and exacerbate respiratory ailments.
- Climate change impacts on agriculture and other food systems raise malnutrition rates and lead to poverty.
- Malaria transmission may increase in places that are expected to get more rain and flooding. Dengue fever can spread due to increased rainfall and warmth.
8. Impact on Rural Areas
While rural communities in Africa are the hardest hit by climate change in Africa, they are not alone. Rural crises frequently result in the migration of rural residents to urban regions. According to a United Nations report from 2017, more than half of the world’s population lives in cities.
The African continent has the fastest urbanization pace in the world. Only a quarter of the people resided in cities in 1960. The current rate is over 40%, and by 2050, the figure is expected to rise to 60%.
With a population of 472 million in 2018, Sub-Saharan Africa is considered the world’s fastest urbanizing region, with a population, predicted to quadruple by 2043. Climate change will increase urbanization and the difficulties that come with it.
Relocation from rural to urban regions frequently improves living standards in emerging countries. In Sub-Saharan Africa, this is rarely the case. While urbanization has historically increased affluence, most weather-related relocations in Africa include a shift from rural to urban poverty.
Slums are home to up to 70% of Africa’s urban population. Due to a lack of economic development in cities to match the rate of urbanization, unemployment, limited access to services, and animosity that periodically erupts in xenophobic violence, living conditions in these cities are terrible.
People escaping climate-affected rural areas, on the other hand, will not be safe from climate change in metropolitan areas, which are environmentally prone to flooding.
Poor land use and building material selection in some regions trap heat and contribute to the urban heat island effect, resulting in intense heat waves and associated health hazards.
9. Consequences for Vulnerable Populations
Across Africa, women, children, and the elderly are especially vulnerable to the effects of climate change in Africa. Women workers typically face additional responsibilities as carers, as well as societal responses to climate change in the aftermath of harsh weather disasters (eg, male migration).
Water scarcity adds to the stress on African women, who may walk for hours, if not days, to obtain it.
Due to their sensitivity to infectious infections like Malaria, limited mobility, and lower food intake, children and the elderly are at greater risk. Droughts, heat stress, and wildfires pose physical dangers to the elderly, including mortality. Children are frequently killed by hunger, malnutrition, diarrheal infections, and flooding.
10. National Security Consequences
The effects of climate change in Africa have the potential to intensify national security concerns and increase the frequency of international wars. Conflicts over the exploitation of already scarce natural resources, such as fertile ground and water, are common.
Many African regions place a high priority on having constant and reliable water sources. Changes in rainfall timing and intensity, on the other hand, have put water supplies in jeopardy and are producing conflicts over this finite resource.
Crop yields in Sub-Saharan Africa are already being impacted by variations in precipitation and temperature. Food shortages have resulted, triggering cross-border migration and intraregional conflicts, sparking political instability in Nigeria, for example
11. Ecological Consequences
Freshwater and marine ecosystems in eastern and southern Africa, as well as terrestrial ecosystems in southern and western Africa, have already changed as a result of climate change. The vulnerability of certain of South Africa’s ecosystems has been highlighted by catastrophic weather occurrences.
Many terrestrial and marine species’ migration patterns, geographic ranges, and seasonal activity have modified as a result of climate change. The abundance of species and their interactions have also changed.
The environment is the hardest hit by climate change in Africa even though Africa has contributed the least to climate change due to anthropogenic sources.
Solutions to Climate Change in Africa
The following are the solutions to climate change
- Phase-out fossil fuel subsidies
- Clean up the Climate Finance System.
- Drive Africa’s Low-Carbon Energy Transition
- Leave no one behind.
- Adopt new urbanization concepts that are more planned.
1. Phase-out fossil fuel subsidies
Many wealthy nations have stated their desire for a climate agreement. They spend billions of dollars of taxpayer money subsidizing the discovery of new coal, oil and gas reserves at the same time. Instead of subsidizing a global disaster, these nations should be taxing carbon out of the market.
2. Clean up the Climate Finance System.
Africa’s climate financing system is underserved, with up to 50 funds functioning under a patchwork of structures that do nothing to attract private investment. Adaptation funding must be increased and consolidated.
The Clean Technology Fund and the Scaling Up Renewable Energy in Low-Income Countries Programme, for example, should be reorganized to be more sensitive to Africa’s needs and prospects.
3. Drive Africa’s Low-Carbon Energy Transition
To realize Africa’s potential as a worldwide low-carbon superpower, African governments, investors, and international financial institutions must greatly increase energy investment, particularly renewable energy.
By 2030, a tenfold increase in power generation will be necessary to supply electricity to all Africans. This would alleviate poverty and inequality, improve prosperity, and give the international climate leadership that is urgently lacking.
Africa’s forward-thinking “energy entrepreneurs” are already seizing investment possibilities throughout the continent.
4. Leave no one behind.
Africa’s energy systems are inefficient and unequal. They give the wealthy subsidized electricity, unreliable power supply to businesses, and very little to the poor.
Governments should take steps to ensure universal access to energy by 2030, which entails connecting an extra 645 million people to the grid or providing localized mini-grid or off-grid energy.
Africa’s agriculture could benefit from more affordable and accessible energy. Governments should collaborate with the private sector to develop the innovative business models required to provide inexpensive energy to individuals living on less than $2.50 per day – a market opportunity worth $10 billion a year.
5. Adopt new urbanization concepts that are more planned.
Africa, as the world’s fastest-growing urbanizing continent, has the potential to create more compact, less polluted cities, as well as safer and more efficient public transportation.
Scale economies and rising urban incomes have the potential to provide prospects for renewable energy and universal access to basic services.
Governments, multilateral agencies, and aid donors should collaborate to improve cities’ creditworthiness while forming new sustainable energy collaborations.
Climate Change in Africa Facts
1. By 2025, nearly a quarter of a billion Africans will face water scarcity.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), water scarcity affects one out of every three persons in Africa. By 2025, however, climate change may have exacerbated the problem, with predictions that up to 230 million Africans may face water scarcity, with up to 460 million living in water-stressed areas.
2. Africa is home to five of the ten countries most affected by climate change.
Five of the 10 countries most affected by climate change in 2019 were in Africa, according to the 2021 Global Climate Risk Index, which looks at the real-world implications of climate change during the last year and the last 20 years.
Those five countries were: Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Malawi, South Sudan, and Niger.
3. In the Horn of Africa and the Sahel, 46 million people do not have enough food.
According to the United Nations’ World Food Programme, around 13 million people in the Horn of Africa suffer from extreme hunger daily (WFP). According to UNICEF, the situation in the Sahel region is considerably worse, with an estimated 33 million people suffering from extreme hunger.
4. In 2020, hundreds of billions of locusts will swarm East Africa.
The locusts usually travel alone to avoid the heat. To congregate in sufficient numbers to qualify as a swarm, they require a specific combination of heavy rains and hot weather.
When they do, though, the effects are fatal – A typical swarm can cover 90 kilometers every day and destroy enough crops to feed 2,500 people for a year.
5. By 2050, 86 million Africans may be forced to leave their homes.
6. In Africa, one in every three deaths is caused by extreme weather.
According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), Africa has accounted for a third of deaths caused by extreme weather events during the last 50 years.
In 2010, flooding in Somalia claimed the lives of over 20,000 people, making it the deadliest natural disaster in Africa since the beginning of the twenty-first century.
Climate Change in Africa – FAQs
How much is Africa contributing to climate change?
Africa contributes a negligible amount to climate change, accounting for around two to three percent of global emissions, but it is proportionally the world’s most susceptible region. The continent’s current low levels of socioeconomic progress are to blame for this vulnerability.
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A passion-driven environmentalist by heart. Lead content writer at EnvironmentGo.
I strive to educate the public about the environment and its problems.
It has always been about nature, we ought to protect not destroy.