• Wednesday, April 24, 2024
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COP 28: climate change challenge and the options before Africa (1)

COP 28: climate change challenge and the options before Africa (1)

Climate change is a real global phenomenon and an unquestionable threat to our quest for a healthy and livable planet. It is now regarded as potentially the most devastating environmental challenge people and the planet will be confronted with over the next century, posing significant threats to the UN agenda for environmental sustainability under the SDG 2030 Agenda framework. According to a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a UN multinational agency responsible for preparing comprehensive assessment reports on climate change, it is projected that in the absence of significant policy intervention, unmitigated climate change may lead to unprecedented changes in the climate system, including, but not limited to, changes in temperature, precipitation, and sea levels.

It further estimates that the possible temperature rise by the end of the century ranges between 1.1°C and 6.4°C (2-11.5°F), and parts of the world will likely see an increase in the number of heat waves. It is now almost incontrovertible that climate change is most likely to lead to increased intensity of tropical cyclones (typhoons and hurricanes) with serious deleterious consequences for growth and development.

The world is experiencing a rise in global warming, with Africa experiencing the most significant damage due to its vulnerability to climate-related disasters and extreme weather conditions. The last twelve years (1995-2006) have been among the 12 warmest in the instrumental record of global surface temperature since 1850. July 2023 has been recorded as the hottest month globally, with the global mean air surface temperature reaching 16.9°C. Climate scientists label this situation as global boiling.

The Sixth Assessment Report of the IPCC paints a grim picture of climate change, with widespread disruptions in every region causing withering storms, extreme heats, and record floods that threaten food security and livelihoods. The World Bank estimates that the number of people suffering acute food insecurity increased from 135 million in 2019 to 345 million in 82 countries by June 2022, due to an all-time escalation of food prices caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and climate phenomena.

Climate change, despite being responsible for less than 4 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, is disproportionately affecting Africa. Africa is the most vulnerable region to climate change due to human activities like greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, and unsustainable agricultural practices. Researchers have identified seven devastating facts: nearly a quarter of a billion Africans will face water scarcity by 2025, 5 of the 10 most impacted countries are in Africa, tropical storms in Southern Africa displaced half a million people in three months, 46 million people lack access to enough food in the Horn of Africa and Sahel Region, hundreds of billions of locusts swarmed East Africa in 2020, 86 million Africans could be forced to leave their homes in 2050, and 1 in 3 deaths from extreme weather occur in Africa.

Africa is experiencing faster global warming than the rest of the world, despite contributing less to greenhouse gas emissions from human activities like burning fossil fuels and deforestation. The African Centre for Meteorological Application for Development (ACMAD) reports nine of the 10 warmest years in Africa in the last decade, with a temperature anomaly of +0.9°C in 2010. The warming rate is estimated at 3.57°C per century, and if not effectively implemented at national and regional levels, Africa may reach 2°C warming above the 1981–2010 average in the next few decades.

Africa contributes the least to global climatic change per capita due to low industrial development levels. In 2021, per capita carbon dioxide emissions were 1.04 metric tonnes per person, compared to the global average of 4.69 metric tonnes. However, the climate change effect is alarming, with accelerating surface temperature, worsening food insecurity, displacement, and conflicts, declining agricultural productivity, insufficient mitigation and adaptation financing, and soaring economic losses. Mozambique and Zimbabwe were the most affected countries by climate change in 2019, with a Global Climate Risk Index of 2.67 and 6.17 respectively. The absolute value of climate change-related losses in these countries is $4930.08 and $1836.82, respectively, expressed per unit of their GDP.

Majekodunmi Waheed is a doctoral candidate of Economics at Lagos State University, Ojo, Nigeria, and the Founder/Team Lead of the African Climate Change Research Network (ACCREN). He writes from [email protected]