21 September, 2015
Southern Africa will feel the heat
If man-made climate change is not reduced, temperatures in Southern
Africa could rise by up to 6°C at the end of the century, leading to
drought, lower crop production, heat waves and food insecurity.
Francois Engelbrecht, CSIR researcher, and his colleagues have published
a paper modelling temperature changes on the continent and in Southern
Africa and the results reveal a dire future.
The paper shows
that, as temperatures rise, Southern African temperatures do so at a
much faster rate - leading to an Africa "very different to today".
Engelbrecht said Southern African temperatures were already rising more
than twice as fast as the global average increase.
the past century temperatures have risen at 1°C per century. But in
Southern Africa the increase has been more than 2°C." Data show the
continent will be 3°C-6°C warmer by the end of the century. "In South
Africa in the interior places where we have 10 days a year that are
regarded as heat waves, this could increase tenfold," warned
The warnings come as the world prepares to gather
for the 21st UN Summit on Climate Change in Paris in November. He said
negotiator scientists were speaking to believed they would have a treaty
signed by world leaders, but were not confident agreements to reduce
carbon emissions would be meaningful globally to reach climate change
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change wants to
reduce temperatures and ensure they do not rise 2°C above pre-industrial
temperatures. This is the average temperature before industrialisation.
But climate scientists are sceptical that this goal will be achieved.
Even if a good agreement on reducing emissions is reached in Paris,
Southern African temperatures will still rise by 3°C by the end of the
century, said Engelbrecht.
"If negotiations fail to ensure
meaningful commitments, we are likely to see rapidly rising surface
temperature across the continent," said Engelbrecht. This leads to
increased evaporation, less soil moisture, which means a shorter time to
grow crops and longer periods in which fires are common.
many regions, the impact of temperature increases on the agricultural
and biodiversity sectors may be significant, stemming from temperature
related extreme events such as heat waves, wild fires and agricultural
drought," said Engelbrecht. He said Africa was vulnerable because it
could not afford to adapt to climate change and many people were