what if...? south africa in light of a new climate

Submitted by JimmySprout on Thu, 2011-12-01 12:55

the fate of our planet?the fate of our planet?

South Africa is generally considered the leader on the African continent, but not always for the right reasons. While it is deliberated that SA is Africa’s economic and industrial powerhouse, it has come with a price – South Africa is by far the worst polluter and GHG (greenhouse gas) emitter on the continent.

Global climate change is possibly the greatest environmental challenge facing the world this century. But ‘global warming’ is really about the serious disruptions of the world’s weather and climate patterns including impacts on rainfall, extreme weather events and sea level rise, rather than just the temperature increase which may be considered moderate compared to other more severe effects.

It is largely regarded (and warned) that the developing world, especially Africa, will be hardest hit by the impacts of climate change and the most restrained in its ability to respond. While new policies will look to change the 'set-in-stone' ways of SA's current energy-intensive, high-carbon polluting economy , time for positive change may have already slipped away in front of us.

Paul Horsman, campaign director for the Global Campaign for Climate Action commented earlier this week that “the reality of climate change is stark and the failure of politics to deliver the necessary measures does not change the science that calls for urgent measures. Delay only makes the science worse. We have already exceeded the atmospheric concentration of GHG that science considers the limit, beyond which we will experience extremely dangerous climate change.

The World Wildlife Fund also suggested that Durban is “the last real opportunity for countries to provide certainty on a future climate regime. COP17 will be the tipping point in the UN negotiation process…

Without the legally-binding GHG regulations of the Kyoto Protocol, the world could be in for a bumpy and scary ride in the next few decades. If emissions continue on the current course and are left largely unchecked, the true force of our changing climate may become very evident around the world.

kliprivierspruit floodskliprivierspruit floods

South Africa is likely to experience severe weather that could include flooding, storms, droughts and even tornadoes. Along with possible sea-level and temperature rise, natural disasters will become more frequent and erratic. The variability and frequency of these events will also increase, making disaster risk management a national nightmare.

Owing to our current climate, South Africa will generally become even more dry in the west and wetter in the east. High rainfall areas in the east will experience harsh floods and storms while the west will become prone to extreme drought events.

Our rich and diverse biodiversity is expected to take a pounding with high levels of extinction predicted. This may be most evident in climate specific biomes such the grasslands, succulent Karoo and Fynbos regions. These areas may face a large die-off of many unique and endemic species. The possible knock-on effects in these regions are not yet known, but are unlikely to be good.

fynbos to disappear?fynbos to disappear?

Our agriculture, vital to the South African economy, is undoubtedly going to take strain. Summer-rainfall maize production areas and winter-rainfall cereal production areas will come under stress and suffer dramatically while farmland will become vulnerable to bush encroachment, reducing grazing land. Alien plant species will have greater reach, spreading further and depleting water resources. Their 'easy take-over' will diminish biodiversity and fertile lands.

The expected global temperature increases will only further problems in South Africa and are likely to be the main cause of more erratic climatic conditions. Besides the sea-level rise, the coastal regions of SA could warm by 2 degrees C, by 2050, and by 3 or 4 degrees C by 2100. Interior conditions could be much worse, with an increase of 3 to 4 degrees C by 2050, and as much as 6 or 7 degrees C by 2100. For drier regions of the country this could spell disaster in the form of droughts, crop failure, desertification and complete land degradation.

wide-spread droughts and land degredation in the west?wide-spread droughts and land degredation in the west?

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