The Heat Is Online

Africa At Highest Risk From Climate Change

African Poor to Bear Brunt of Global Warming Crisis, Feb. 3, 2005

Africa's poor millions, already suffering grinding poverty and rampant disease, risk bearing the brunt of the global warming crisis unless urgent action is taken now, a leading Nigerian scientist said on Wednesday.

Anthony Nyong from Jos University said if current trends continued temperatures in sub-Saharan Africa could rise by two degrees centigrade by 2050 and rainfall could drop 10 percent leading to major shortages in already water-stressed countries.

"There must be substantial and genuine reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by the principal emitters," he said in a paper to a climate change conference, noting that the G8 group of rich nations accounted for nearly half of world carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in 1999.

"While that is on, mitigation should be supported by effective and sustainable adaptation. This implies that Africa's capacity to adapt to climate change must be strengthened through capacity building," he added.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair has pledged to make Africa and the battle to curb climate change one of the top priorities for his presidency of the G8 this year.

Scientists say climate warming is caused by gases such as CO2, and most accept that much of this is from human activities like car exhaust and electricity generation and urgently needs to be curbed.

Almost alone of the developed world, the United States does not accept there is a human element to climate change.

Scientists predict that temperatures will rise by at least two degrees this century and warn that it could push the planet into the unknown as ice caps melt, sea levels rise and weather patterns change at accelerating rates threatening millions of people and animals.

Nyong noted that while global warming was a crisis for the whole world, Africa was among the worst placed of the continents to face it because it was already highly water-stressed and highly dependant on agriculture for food and export earnings.

"Africa's high vulnerability is not only due to climate change but a combination of other stresses," he said. "Such stresses include poverty, wars and conflicts, limited technological development, a high disease burden and a rapid population growth rate."

The World-Wide Fund for Nature, which sponsored Nyong's paper to the climate conference, said it was a wake-up call to the world.

"If global warming is not tackled the viability of millions of people's livelihoods in Africa will be undermined. Without significant new resources, millions of others won't be able to adapt to changes that are already happening," said Dr Catarina Cardoso, Head of Climate Change at WWF-UK.

The group said that by the 2080s climate change would have put an extra 80-120 million people at risk of hunger -- up to 80 percent of whom would be in Africa because of the dependence on ecosystems that would be the first to go as the climate changed.