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Extreme weather is a new normal – global problem as global warming increases at current rates


In Somalia, water infrastructure projects are creating climate resilience and reducing emissions using solar panels to supply energy. Credit: UNDP / Tobin Jones
  • By Frank Cuonu (United Nations)
  • Inter Press Service

The report says we can work on climate change but warns that time is running out.

In this interview with Frank Kuonu of Africa Renewal, Barimala talks about what extreme weather means for Africa and what could be the new normal if global warming is not addressed immediately.

Excerpts from the interview.

The IPCC report says that while Africa is not a major contributor to carbon emissions, man-made global warming is advancing faster on continents than in other parts of the world. How do you explain it?

Global warming. It happens everywhere. But the situation of Africans is even worse because of our limited ability to adapt even when most emissions occur elsewhere. More extreme events, for example, occur in different parts of the world, but our ability to adapt is less than in other places. And I think it makes us weaker and we have to suffer the most as a result.

Q: After 1998, 2010 and 2016, Africa experienced the fourth-warmest April of this year. This increase in temperature has been noticeable for the last two decades. Is this a trend that we will see in the future?

A: Yes. Over the past few decades, warming has increased rapidly. And one consequence of global warming is frequent extremes, frequent extreme temperatures – for example, very hot temperatures or very cold temperatures. If it continues to grow at this pace, we should expect more frequent events. And these will become the new normal.

Q: In Africa, the results of the report include extreme increase in hot and cold, increase in sea level rise, drought and increase in pleural flooding. Do these events occur equally throughout the region? For example, is North Africa experiencing the same rate as West, Central or South Africa?

A: There is a difference. Africa is divided into nine regions, the report said. It is largely based on an understanding of the climate system in the region. So, for example, West Africa will not be like South Africa. Extreme heat was felt in all parts of Africa. But across the region it will be different.

I just give examples of heatwave dimensions. We anticipate that our number of days over 355 degrees Celsius across Africa will increase significantly by 2050, but especially in West Africa and East Africa. Significant growth in this region may not be the same as in Central Africa. Thus, it is not evenly distributed; Not everything will grow at the same rate everywhere.

Q: Talking about West Africa: The report talks about an increase in rainfall over the central coast and a decrease in the west?

A: Yes. The report said rainfall would decrease in the western parts of Africa except in the west coast and increase in the east.

Q: What will be the impact on the livelihood of the people of Sahel? Will some parts of the Sahel be green, for example in the central area, when the west will become drier?

A: Yes. Unfortunately for the west the aridity will increase. Because our rainfall has decreased, which will affect agriculture, ecology and the biosphere. In case of increased rainfall forecast, it is not impossible to have green land, for example in the eastern part. But again, we need more research to confirm this.

Question: Another finding and projection of the report is the increase in sea level across the continent. The western side from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic seems to be the most affected. How bad is it? What is the condition of the eastern part along the Indian Ocean? How much are these affected?

A: Let’s see what happens before we talk about the future. For the Atlantic Ocean, from 1900 to 2018 the level increased by about 2 millimeters per year. The Indian Ocean was 1.3 millimeters per year. And recently, the dimensions are almost the same. Now, it is about 3.40 millimeters in the Atlantic Ocean and 3.60 millimeters in the Indian Ocean. Thus, it is serious for both parties. What makes the matter more serious in the West is, I think, the low-altitude land of that area.

Q: So, both are growing, and the Indian team seems to have outgrown the West. Is that right

A: Yes. But the effect is not felt in the same way because the coastal areas on the east side are more than on the west side. If you look at the coast along Tanzania, those regions have higher geography – higher altitude.

Q: Along the coast of West Africa, traveling from Lagos (Nigeria) to Abidjan (C ডিte d’Ivoire), for example, one sees the ruins of entire roads and villages, the historical place is washed away by the sea. What is the main reason for this – warm water or submerged land expansion? Or is it melting ice, which is far from the continent?

A: When we talk about sea level rise, we must consider the expansion due to the warming of the sea. And it contributes the most to the global rise of sea level. And then, we have melting ice and glaciers. But I think from the example you gave, these are more classified as coastal erosion than sea level rise, I think houses and roads are more about coastal erosion. And the continent has experienced coastal retreat at a rate of one meter per year from 1984 to around 2016/2017 and this is also very important.

Q: Is there any other place in the world where the growth rate is comparatively higher?

A: Like extreme heat, the growth rate is not evenly distributed. The Atlantic, for example, is warming faster than the Pacific Ocean, causing sea levels to rise above the global average in the European and U.S. east coasts. There is also an increase in weight loss due to various factors such as land disposal or melting of ice.

Q: So what are the possible consequences of rising sea levels?

A: The potential consequences will be in the coastal areas because as the sea level rises, you have a tendency to further erode from the sea, reduce the quality of water and destroy various infrastructures.

Q: What’s in front? Is the projected trend immutable for the continent? Should the public and policy makers be aware of the way forward?

A: This is a clever question. Of course, we will benefit by reducing greenhouse gases everywhere. In Africa, we are waiting for that, because we are very weak. So, if you ask me what is in front of Africa, I would say it depends on the global effort. I think we know the facts. We know what’s going to happen if we don’t decide. Through this report, we are presenting information to the government. So, it is difficult for me to say what is in front of Africa. But it really depends on the global decision as well as the decision on what to do based on this decision in every country in Africa.

Footnote

Climate Change 2021: Fundamentals of Physical Sciences: Africa Basics:

Extreme natural variability in average temperatures and heat in all land regions of Africa has risen, compared to 1850-1900.

The rate of increase in surface temperature has generally been faster than the global average in Africa, where man-induced climate change is an influential driver.

Extreme global warming will continue in the 21st century with additional global warming (including heat waves) and cold extremes (including cold).

Marine heat waves have become more frequent since the twentieth century and are expected to increase around Africa.

In the last three decades, the relative sea level has risen at a higher rate than the global average sea level around Africa. Relative sea level rise is almost certain to continue around Africa, contributing to coastal erosion and an increase in the frequency and intensity of coastal flooding on most sandy coasts.

With additional global warming the frequency and intensity of heavy rainfall events are expected to increase almost everywhere in Africa.

Formula: Africa Renewal, United Nations


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© Inter Press Service (2021) – All rights reservedOriginal Source: Inter Press Service





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