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Climate change in Africa can destabilise countries, entire regions, says WMO

By Chinedum Uwaegbulam
12 September 2022   |   4:10 am
Water stress and hazards like withering droughts and devastating floods are hitting African communities, economies and ecosystems hard, according to a new report launched on Thursday

[FILES] A herd of sheep walk over cracked earth at al-Massira dam in Ouled Essi Masseoud village, some 140 kilometres (85 miles) south from Morocco’s economic capital Casablanca, on August 8, 2022 amidst the country’s worst drought in at least four decades. – Residents of Morocco’s Ouled Essi Masseoud village are suffering from a series of successive droughts, prompting them to rely solely on sporadic supplies in public fountains and from private wells. The situation is critical, given the village’s position in the agricultural province of Settat, near the Oum Errabia river and al-Massira dam, Morocco’s second largest. Its reservoir supplies drinking water to several cities, including the three million people who live in Casablanca. But latest official figures show it is now filling at a rate of just five percent. (Photo by FADEL SENNA / AFP)

Water stress and hazards like withering droughts and devastating floods are hitting African communities, economies and ecosystems hard, according to a new report launched on Thursday by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO).

The State of the Climate in Africa 2021 reveals that rainfall patterns are disrupted, glaciers are disappearing and key lakes are shrinking. And rising water demand, combined with limited and unpredictable supplies, threatens to aggravate conflict and displacement.

“The worsening crisis and looming famine in the drought-stricken Horn of Africa shows how climate change can exacerbate water shocks, threatening the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and destabiliising communities, countries and entire regions,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.

The report shows how extreme weather and climate change are undermining human health and safety, food and water security, and socio-economic development.

While Africa accounts for only about two to three per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, it suffers disproportionately from it.

With a special focus on water, The State of the Climate revealed that high water stress is estimated to affect about 250 million people on the continent and displace up to 700 million individuals by 2030. Four out of five African countries are unlikely to have sustainably managed water resources by 2030.

“Africa’s climate has warmed more than the global average since pre-industrial time,” warned Taalas, noting that the sea level rise along African coastlines is faster than the global mean.

He observed that this is contributing to increasing in the frequency and severity of coastal flooding and erosion, and salinity in low-lying cities.

“Changes in continental water bodies have major impacts on the agriculture sector, ecosystems, biodiversity,” said the WMO chief.

Currently only 40 per cent of the African population has access to early warning systems against extreme weather and climate change impacts. At the request of Secretary-general, Antonio Guterres, WMO is spearheading a campaign to ensure universal access to early warnings in the next five years.

Meanwhile, climate action is gaining momentum. More than 40 African States have revised their national climate plans to make them more ambitious and add greater commitments to climate adaptation and mitigation.

The State of the Climate report makes a number of recommendations, including strengthening early warning systems; increase transboundary cooperation, data exchange and knowledge sharing. It underscores that the need for more investment in adaptation is crucial, as is a concerted drive towards more integrated water resource management.

The report was launched with an accompanying digital story map at a Ministerial Meeting on Integrated Early Warning and Early Action System initiative in Maputo, Mozambique.