Africa has contributed least to global greenhouse gas emissions, yet key sectors of the region have experienced widespread loss and damage due to human-caused climate change.
Chapter 9 of the IPCC AR6 Working Group II report, released on 28 February 2022, assesses climate change impacts, risks, vulnerability, climate adaptation, climate resilience development, and barriers in Africa.
Since 1990, the IPCC has published a series of Assessment Reports (AR), each one between 5 or 7 years apart, and Special Reports in addition to ARs.
The IPCC is on its 6th assessment cycle, hence the AR6 report, consisting of the Working Groups I, II, and III contributions and a Synthesis report.
Previous assessments of African countries show the following salient themes:
- Hot days and nights are becoming more frequent, and heatwaves have become longer. West and southwestern Africa will experience more drying.
- Climate change contributes to land degradation, loss of biodiversity, and the spread of invasive species and pests.
- Climate change reduces food crop yields, livestock, and fish, and deterioration in food nutritional quality. Risks to crop yields are significantly lower at 1.5C than a 2C temperature increase, and maise production will be affected.
- Increased health risks and deaths from diseases, hunger, heat, and pollution,
- Economic losses rise with increases in warming.
- Poverty and limited financing will undermine adaptive capacity, especially in growing urban areas.
- Transitioning to renewable will reduce reliance on wood and charcoal and deforestation and improve air quality.
- Sustainable use and conservation of natural resources, land and watershed restoration, and reforestation can benefit climate adaptation and mitigation and benefit, including water and food security, soil conservation, and surface cooling.
- Climate resilience can be strengthened through better early warning systems, insurance, transport infrastructure, secure land tenure, access to information, investments in education, and improved local governance.
- Indigenous and local knowledge are assets for sustainable development in the continent.
What is new about Africa in the AR6?
There is increased confidence in observed and projected changes in climate hazards, including heat and precipitation, and observed impacts and projected risk will increase.
AR6 report includes climate change loss and damage assessments in Africa and quantification of risk for every degree of global warming starting from 1.5℃, 2℃, 3℃ and 4℃.
There is an improved assessment of sea-level risk, increased quantification of risk across all sectors, assessment of adaption finance, and increased assessment of how climate risk and adaptation and mitigation response options are interlinked across multiple key development sectors.
Economic growth, rapid urbanisation, coastal settlements, and barriers to climate adaptation
Regarding Africa’s GDP, the report’s authors estimate that the region’s GDP per capita would have been 13.6% higher from 1991 to 2010 without climate change.
Agricultural productivity has decreased by 34% since 1964, while food insecurity due to the rise in extreme events. Between 2015 and 2019, 45 million people in the horn of Africa and 62 million people in eastern and southern Africa needed humanitarian aid due to a lack of food.
Rapid urbanisation and the rise of informal settlers in cities will create more hotspots for climate hazards. The report predicts that by 2030, 108 to 116 million people will be exposed to sea-level rise; this number will increase to 190 to 245 million people by 2060.
Technological, institutional, and financing factors are major barriers to climate adaptation in Africa. The continent has to increase public and private financing flows by billions of dollars per year, increasing access to multilateral funds and strengthening project pipeline development.
The report provides numerous climate adaptation options available for the region, and these include: integrating climate adaptation into social protection programs, improving early warning systems and disaster risk reduction plans, diversifying livelihood, implementing ecosystem-based adaptation, and use of indigenous knowledge can increase climate resilience and reduce climate risks.
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