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Climate change threatens health, food, water security in Africa – Report

Increasing temperatures and sea levels, changing precipitation patterns and more extreme weather are threatening human health and safety, food and water security and socio-economic development in Africa, according to a new report devoted exclusively to the continent.

Petteri Taalas
WMO Secretary-General, Petteri Taalas

The State of the Climate in Africa 2019 report, a multi-agency publication coordinated by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), provides a snapshot of current and future climate trends and associated impacts on the economy and sensitive sectors like agriculture. It highlights lessons for climate action in Africa and identifies pathways for addressing critical gaps and challenges.

The report was released on Monday, October 26, 2020 at a ministerial-level launch to highlight the urgency of climate action in Africa and the current state of capacity.

“Climate change is having a growing impact on the African continent, hitting the most vulnerable hardest, and contributing to food insecurity, population displacement and stress on water resources.

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“In recent months we have seen devastating floods, an invasion of desert locusts and now face the looming spectre of drought because of a La Niña event. The human and economic toll has been aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said WMO Secretary-General, Petteri Taalas.

“Science-based climate information is the foundation of resilience building, a cornerstone of climate change adaptation, as well as an oasis for sustainable livelihoods and development. The State of Climate Report for Africa has, therefore, a critical role to play in this respect, including in informing our actions for achieving the goals of the Africa Agenda 2063,” said Josefa Leonel Correia Sacko, Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture of the African Union Commission.

“The limited uptake and use of climate information services in development planning and practice in Africa is due in part to the paucity of reliable and timely climate information. This report, focusing on Africa, will go a long way towards addressing this gap.

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“The contribution of the Economic Commission for Africa to the production of this report, through the African Climate Policy Centre, seeks to highlight the nexus between climate change and development, and to emphasise that building forward better from the Covid-19 pandemic requires a development approach that is green, sustainable and climate resilient, informed by the best available science.

“The participation of multiple institutions and agencies in producing the report reinforces our principles and approaches of working as one,” said Vera Songwe, United Nations Under-Secretary-General & Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.

The year 2019 was among the three warmest years on record for the continent, according to the WMO, adding that the trend is expected to continue.

African temperatures, said the UN body, have in recent decades been warming at a rate comparable to that of most other continents, and thus somewhat faster than global mean surface temperature.

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The latest decadal predictions, covering the five-year period from 2020 to 2024, shows continued warming and decreasing rainfall especially over North and Southern Africa, and increased rainfall over the Sahel.

Extensive areas of Africa will exceed 2 °C of warming above pre-industrial levels by the last two decades of this century under medium scenarios as reported in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report.

Much of Africa is said to have warmed by more than 1 °C since 1901, with an increase in heatwaves and hot days. A reduction in precipitation is likely over North Africa and the south-western parts of South Africa by the end of the century, according to the IPCC.

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