7 December 2007

Africa: Sub-Saharan Africa Bears the Brunt of Climate Shifts

Economies in sub-Saharan Africa, including Tanzania, will suffer as a result of global warming, according to the 2007 Human Development Report.

This is because countries in the region lack strong economies that can neutralise the effects of pollution in highly developed nations.

The report titled 'Fighting Climate Change: Human Solidarity in a Divided World', says decades of civil wars had weakened economies in sub-Saharan Africa, adding that the region stands to be the biggest casualty of global warming in the next few years.

"What is dangerous for a small-scale farmer living in Malawi might not appear very dangerous for a large, mechanised farmer in the midwest of the United States of America," says the report officially launched in Dar es Salaam on Wednesday.

"Climate change is global, but the effects will be local," the report states, adding that the immense scope of these impacts makes generalisation difficult, with drought-prone sub-Saharan Africa standing to bear the brunt of weather changes.

The five key effects that will take place as a result of global warming are reduced agricultural productivity, heightened water insecurity, increased exposure to coastal flooding and extreme weather events, collapse of ecosystems and increased health risks.

In Tanzania, effects of global warming have begun being felt after scientists revealed this week that Mount Kilimanjaro had lost its ice cap volume by more than 80 per cent in the last one hundred years.

Speaking on the sidelines of the report's launch, the Minister of State in the Vice-President's Office (Environment), Prof Mark Mwandosya, said global warming caused by climate change had already caused far-reaching effects on economies in sub-Saharan Africa.

He said poor people in the region and in other least developed countries were becoming victims of the global phenomenon due to their low adaptive capacities.

He said, however, that global warming would in the long run not spare even developed countries.

Prof Mwandosya said weather phenomena such as El Nino and severe drought that had hit the country in recent years could be directly attributed to climate change.

The minister said an analysis of recent climate trends revealed that climate change posed significant risks for Tanzania, adding that the sea level was now rising, causing salt water to filter into water wells in Bagamoyo.

As a result of climate change, he said, an island called Maziwe in the Indian Ocean in Pangani District had been submerged due rising sea level, while the ice cap on Mt Kilimanjaro was receding at an alarming rate.

"As a result of climate change, the rainfall pattern is not predictable. There have been serious recurrent droughts in recent years, including the 2005 drought that ravaged the entire country," Prof Mwandosya said.

He added that measures taken at national level to address the situation includes the finalisation of the National Action Plan on Adaptation (Napa) to climate change.

Prof Mwandosya said Napa had identified priority areas for which urgent and immediate action was required for the country to adapt to the effects of climate change.

He mentioned some of activities under Napa as strengthening of early warning and disaster preparedness in various sectors such as agriculture, water and energy and improving food security in drought-prone areas.

Other activities include improving water availability, shifting of shallow wells affected by salt seawater and combating malaria in mosquito-infested areas.

Prof Mwandosya said the atmosphere had now warmed up by an average of 0.7 degree Centigrade compared to pre- industrial times, mainly due to emission of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide.

He cautioned that if the current trend continued unabated, the resultant climate change would be irreversible.

Prof Mwandosya said efforts would now be directed at pressuring big producers of greenhouse gases such the US to ratify the Kyoto Protocol.

The Kyoto Protocol is an agreement aimed at reducing greenhouse gases that cause climate change.

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