The climate crisis is a global phenomenon affecting all regions of the world, but its impacts are not evenly distributed. On the African continent, these effects are disproportionately felt and threaten the lives of millions of people. The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has launched a report highlighting this alarming reality and urging us to take urgent action. The World Meteorological Organization is the United Nations’ authoritative voice on weather, climate and water.
In this blog, we will explore why Africa is especially vulnerable to climate change and what can be done to address this crisis as it damages ecosystems, food security, and economies.
How was the state of the climate in Africa in 2022?
Africa is a diverse continent, with a wide range of climates and ecosystems including deserts, rainforests, savannahs and coastal areas. This diversity makes Africa particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, as communities across the continent rely heavily on agriculture, fisheries and other natural resources for their livelihoods.
The 2022 State of the Climate report states that the temperature in Africa has been increasing in recent decades, and that brings hazards inherent to high temperatures. “In 2022, more than 110 million people in the continent were directly affected by weather, climate and hydrological hazards, causing economic damages of more than US$8.5 billion. According to the International Disaster Database (EM-DAT), there were 5,000 deaths, of which 48% were associated with droughts and 43% with floods (WMO, 2023).”
Professor Petteri Taalas, Secretary General of the WMO, stated that “Africa is responsible for less than 10 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. But it is the continent which is the least able to cope with the negative impacts of climate change. Heatwaves, heavy rains, floods, tropical cyclones, and prolonged droughts are having devastating impacts on communities and economies, with increasing numbers of people at risk.“
He also pointed out that the continent has problems with early warning services because they are insufficient and do not properly perform their function of warning and thus saving lives.
For Africans, their pillar of subsistence and economy is agriculture because it supports more than 55% of the population. The problem dates back to 1961, because due to the climate crisis, Africans are unable to maintain their agricultural productivity at 100%. According to the report, no improvement is foreseen and by 2025 annual food imports are expected to increase threefold.
In addition, the costs of damages and losses in Africa caused by climate factors will be between 290 billion and 440 billion dollars in the 2020-2030 period. This figure was provided by the UNECA African Climate Policy Centre.
What does the new report highlight?
This report, presented by the WMO, includes contributions from several institutions such as the African Union Commission, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, the WMO Regional Climate Centers, and the African Development Bank, among others.
Its conclusions consist of five messages. The first is regarding temperature, mentioning that warming has increased the most in North Africa, where two forest fires were experienced in 2022 in Algeria and Tunisia.
In terms of rainfall, Africa had five consecutive seasons of lack of rainfall which caused agricultural production to be significantly reduced. In the Somali area, more than 1 million people were internally displaced due to the impacts of drought.
The third message talks about tropical cyclones, recalling the first months of 2022, when a region of Africa was hit by a series of cyclones and tropical storms that caused displacement and flooding.
With regard to sea level rise, the report shared that “the rate of coastal sea level rise in Africa is similar to the global average value of 3.4 mm/year.” (WMO, 2023)
The fifth message is in relation to climate adaptation, mentioning that “in 2021, per capita carbon dioxide emissions in Africa reached 1.04 metric tons per person, compared to the global average of 4.69 metric tons per person.”
Africa is a continent that suffers disproportionately from the consequences of the climate crisis. The WMO report is a wake-up call that reminds us of the urgency of taking global action to address this crisis. If we do not act decisively, the impacts in Africa will continue to grow, threatening the lives and livelihoods of millions of people. The onus is on all of us, worldwide, to take concrete action and work together to combat the climate crisis, thereby protecting Africa and future generations.
You can read the full WMO report here.