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​​21 Sept 2013 Africa and climate change: What's at stake?

Climate change predictions show a very bleak future for Africa.
by Dr Richard Munang Africa Climate Change Head for UNEP

Crop models published inRobust negative impacts of climate change on African agriculture by W. Schlenker and D. Lobell indicate that by 2050
mean declines for maize, sorghum, millet, groundnut, &  cassava are
−22,   −17, −17,  −18, & −8%  respectively

Climate Change Worsening the Food Situation in
​Sub Saharan Africa
, 18th June 2012

Projected Melting on Mount Kilimanjaro & Mount Kenya, 18th June 2012.

Impacts of Climate Change on Nairobi National Park, 25th June 2012

Climate Change and Desertification in the Sahara, 14th November 2012

Droughts and Floods in Africa: A Climate Change Perspective,
​24th November 2012

Impact of Climate Change on Great African Mountains, 28th November 2012

Climate Change: Coastal Cities in Danger, 9th January 2013

Climate Change, Environmental Sustainability and Food Security, 9th January 2013

MDGs and Climate Change in Africa
, 4th March 2013

Climate Emergency Africa

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​      Africa's lands and populations are
                     ​the most climate change vulnerable in the world

It is well known that the most climate change most vulnerable region is Africa.

However ​​research into Africa climate change impacts has been neglected, and Africa is not given special consideration in climate or energy international policy discussions and plans.​​

What research there is indicates a climate change by crop  yield ​reduction of -17%, ​which is clearly catastrophic.

The single best research paper remains
 ​​Robust negative impacts of climate change on African agriculture W. Schlenker and D. Lobell


The present styles of living are way beyond the Earth’s carrying capacity. Ecosystem degradation is rampant in almost all regions of the world. The FAO concurs that habitats and ecosystems in Africa currently face threats from several factors such as deforestation, land degradation, and massive reliance on the earth’s biomass for energy needs such as fuel, charcoal and firewood.

The UN Rio+20 statement acknowledged that there have been serious setbacks in the development already gained in the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, owing to multiple and interrelated factors such as food insecurity, climate change and biodiversity loss. The draft further acknowledges that the future predictions of these disasters are likely to aggravate the already worsening situation, and that urgent responses must be taken (11). It is widely acknowledged that human population growth and economic activities are the leading causes of the negative changes observed in the earth’s biomes (WHO, 2005).

Agriculture contributes significantly to climate change in both positive and negative ways. However, agriculture offers a unique opportunity to draw up the carbon levels that are presently in the atmosphere. Could this be a key in combating climate change at all levels of growth and development?

 The Health and Human Rights Approach to Climate Change
Climate change adaptation policy in Africa is insufficient to tackle adverse affects of climate change impacts. Sluggish political systems; weak institutional capacity and framework; poor coordination and implementation of existing environmental legislations; absence of foresight in national development planning and climate resilience; international abandonment and unfavorable global settings to enhance Africa‘s capacity to develop climate change adaptation and mitigation continue to undermine continent‘s adaptation strategies. Existing policy is scattered, conflicting and incoherent rendering it insufficient to give the continent a survival chance under adverse climate change impacts. Consequently in a business as usual Africa; adverse effects of climate related disasters will far outweigh the capacity of any given country to recover. Puny implementation of climate change adaption and other environmental policies: Very few countries have specific climate change policy or legislations. NAPA implementation by LDC‘s is also slow owing to lack of sufficient political commitment. Institutional failure: absence of a regional institution for monitoring climate change adaptation policy developments or enforcement of environmental regulations, data collection, and dissemination for policy development and scientific communication. Information scarcity: Climate data exists in some countries; however, this information is not availed internationally, or incorporated into national/regional development planning or in disaster reduction strategies. Limited human resource to produce, analyze and interpret and disseminate climate data as a result of poor investment into scientific research on climate change impacts, adaptation, and mitigation; biodiversity and ecosystems; and weak governance and surveillance of natural resources especially forests weaken the region‘s capacity to adapt to climate change.
Access the entire report at:

              ​​IPCC AR5 WG2 Africa
​                Executive Summary

  • African ecosystems are already being affected by climate change, and future impacts are expected to be substantial
  • Climate change will amplify existing stress on water availability in Africa (high confidence)​​
  • Climate change will interact with non-climate drivers and stressors to exacerbate vulnerability of agricultural systems 
  • Climate change is a multiplier of existing health vulnerabilities (high confidence), including insufficient access to safe water and improved sanitation, food insecurity, and limited access to health care
  • Of nine climate-related key regional risks identified for Africa, eight pose up to high risk even with highly adapted systems by 2.0C    (Above are all high confidence)​
WE Must Get it Right​
Common but differentiated responsibilities and abilities

Stakes are high. Moving from acknowledging climate change as a threat to human security issue toward tangible sustainable solutions for the well-being of the planet, human life and ecosystems is taking place. 

‘‘Of nine climate-related key regional risks identified for Africa, eight pose medium or higher risk even with highly adapted systems, while only one key risk assessed can be potentially reduced with high adaptation to below a medium risk level, for the end of the 21st century under 2°C global mean temperature increase above pre-industrial levels (medium confidence).’’ (IPCC AR5).

IPCC Africa risk projections under climate change:
  • Land temperature in Africa will rise higher than global land average
  • Reduction in precipitation especially in North Africa and Southern Africa while Sub Sahara predictions remain uncertain.
  • Ecosystems range shift due to CO2 and warming while future shifts will be significantly high
  • Amplified water stress
  • Disruption of agriculture systems especially in semi-arid lands
  • Increased food insecurity
  • Increased risks to water vector and waterborne diseases
  • Adverse effects on livestock
  • Triggering migration
  • Climate change will also exacerbate/multiply existing threats to human security such as food insecurity, food, health, etc. 

The residual impact in a 2°C at the close of the 21st century suggests that even under high levels of adaptation there would be very high risks for the region.
  • Adaptation gap in Africa is huge. As indicated by various studies; the present institutional framework is insufficient to effectively coordinate the various adaptation initiatives being rolled out.
  •  The sociopolitical, environmental, economic and technology factors limit adaptation and resilience capacity in the region.
  •  IPCC identifies conservation agriculture as sustainable means to building adaptation and resilient capacity in agro ecosystems and livelihoods.
  •  Large data and research gap hinders informed decision making process to increase resilience, implementation of adaptation strategies and reduce vulnerability in light of climate change risks in Africa. Flow of scientific climate information from the source to national, county level to village levels or where county governments are responsible for policy formulation and development projects planning usually lack the necessary information tools on how to utilize climate change information in planning and implementation of such projects. Most of climate change information is left on paper and scarcely used expect by metrological departments where farmers are warned on little or increased rainfalls in certain seasons. Beyond this, climate information in rarely factored into county/national planning. 



15 Sept 2020 UNICEFClimate Change Impacts, Trends and Vulnerabilities of Children in Sub Saharan Africa
2020 FAO,  Africa Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition 2019.
 19 Oct 2021, WMO, "Climate change triggers mounting food insecurity, poverty and displacement in Africa" “By 2030, it is estimated that up to 118 million extremely poor people will be exposed to drought, floods and extreme heat in Africa" 
WMOState of the Climate Africa 2020 
14 Dec 2021, FAO,
Africa – Overview of Food Security
​& Nutrition 2021
Africa and the UN Paris COP21 Agreement
In retrospect the much hailed Paris Agreement did not benefit Africa, but the big economy Annex 1 countries who managed to evade their legally binding obligations to the most vulnerable counties under the 1992 UN convention. 
In previous COPs Africa had called for lower warming limit 0f 1.5°C together with other developing, Caribbean nations and small island nations

It was only through the 2009 Copenhagen Accord ​that it was agreed to consider 1.5C as the limit, after African leaders had called 2C a suicide pact. ​

​​However, this position was not adopted as  the Paris Agreement limit was a limit  far 2C below as possible striving towards 1.5C .

​​Challenges like in-coherency and disharmony among the Africa group of negotiators notwithstanding, previous outcomes have least favored Africa.
At the 2015 Paris COP Caribbean states and small island nations at Cancun COP 16 fought for a lower limit of 1.5°C; this was backed by several least developed countries- this constituted over 70% of the parties to the Convention. Scientists have also opposed a 2 degree warming target and what is ‘acceptable’ and ‘dangerous’ varies across regions. 
Africa ministerial Conference- AMCEN submission to UNFCCC COP 21 called for a limit of 1.5°C, reliable funding, technology transfer, limiting emissions to below 1.5°C.
‘‘Stressing Africa's vulnerability to the effects of climate change, in particular the adverse effects on ecosystems, food production, and social and economic development, Ministers agreed to support an agreement in 2015 that provides parity between mitigation and adaptation ? noting the increased burden for adaptation in developing countries. They indicated the agreement needs to ensure that the mitigation ambition keeps global temperatures well below 1.5°C from pre-industrial levels, by the end of the century.’’ (UNEP 2015).

The Paris Climate agreement under COP21 of the UNFCCC was pivotal for Africa survival and sustainable development. Realizing the theme ‘Our Common Future’ international power politics ought to show leadership in dealing with climate change in 21st century by robust greenhouse gas emissions cut considering the most vulnerable and most at risk. Climate change costs cuts across all generations, stratus, economies and ecosystems. Yet the most vulnerable are in developing countries, endemic ecosystems and species. For small island nations the 0.5°C warming under climate change could mean the line between survival and submergence under ocean rise. For countries with strong economic muscles, higher latitudes and strong adaptation networks the 0.5°C difference may not be a heavy burden to bear. Over half coral reefs might be lost with disproportional impacts across continents ranging from food and nutrition insecurity, loss of livelihood, poverty, to loss as aesthetic value and GDP.
The Paris COP 21 climate change summit ought to have paved way for the voice of the poor and vulnerable in the spirit of social justice. Varying interests have hindered tangible climate change negotiation outcomes over the last Conference of parties under the UNFCCC. Profit driven interest by multilateral corporations have often invisibly influenced international agreements and outcomes as these rich corporations often manipulate governments and international politics.
Climate change related deaths have increased in frequency and magnitude owing to occurrence of disasters like heat waves that have claimed roads, infrastructure and loss of human life in some continents. Economic activities disrupted, more than 2000 human deaths from heat waves calls for drastic action on climate change.
The richest 10 percent of the world’s population is responsible for about 50% percent of historical emissions. Social justice requires than nations responsible for historical emissions carry greater burden in providing adaptation and mitigation costs for the developing nations who constitute most vulnerable and greatest victims of climate change related disasters. It’s not just food security, ecosystems, coastal cities and droughts/floods at risk of climate change threats; agro-economic production in Africa is at great risk from climate change as coffee production in East Africa highlands like Tanzania and Kenya dwindle with increasing temperatures. Economy-wide losses lowering GDP puts entire Africa economy at highest risk from climate change. Hence it’s not just a moral failure that climate change talks previously yielded results undesirable for Africa but it should be considered a matter of human rights violation.
Africa is predicted to experience higher than global average warming of 2°C; this would mean the continents experiences higher warming compared to other regions as a result of climate change. This has catastrophic impacts on the continent which is already struggling with effects of 0.85° warming. With low resilience and limited adaptation capacity the continent survival is threatened by climate change and a Paris 2015 agreement holds the promise of hope for the entire of Africa nations and island nations as well.
Atmosphere is a global common (UNEP). Climate change has no private cost. Greenhouse emissions transcends nations sovereignty and the impacts cut across the globe. Actions of a single huge carbon emitting nations has profound impacts on global climate change across the entire continent. Without global commitment of all nations cutting greenhouse gasses by some individual nations remain a zero game whereby emissions cuts are topped up by the other. Paris 2015 climate change agreement need to be clear and legally binding for the parties to the convention. Apart from INDC’s and robust measuring and reporting, international law and policy on greenhouse emissions need to be developed just like the law on hazardous transportation and waste management.
Stakes were high at Paris 2015 climate change negotiations. Developing nations hoped for a legally binding agreement, financial commitment from developed nations on adaptation and mitigation, setting a new target of 1.5°C warming instead of the popular 2°C. international climate change policy has lagged behind in terms of responding and providing mechanisms to deal adequately with climate change. Same case on illegal wildlife trade and other international environmental matters have often been challenged by inadequate international policy measures.
Noting the responsibility of the international community on safeguarding the environment while ensuring sustainable development; taking heed to the scientific warning on climate change and inaction or delayed action the Paris 2015 climate climate conference held lots of hope for developing nations, small island nations, unique species and coral reefs ecosystems globally.

Aug 2021 IPCC AR6 WG1,
Regional Fact Sheet -Africa​ 
20 Sept 2021 Africa Climate change puts food supply at greater risk
State Climate Africa​ 2020