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Africa’s risks grow with climate change

Africa’s risks grow with climate change

Mar 18, 2014

18 March 2014 ~ Addressing more than 700 delegates last week at the Climate Reality Project in Johannesburg, South Africa, chairman Al Gore said it’s time for governments and business to shake off lethargy towards climate change.

Highlighting the fact that Africa experiences more than half the world’s wildfires, Gore said research shows that a 1% Celsius average increase in the global temperature can result in a 600 percent increase in the land area burned by fires.

Higher temperatures also contribute to the ability for fires to spread. Southern Africa is projected to experience intense droughts this century, increasing in intensity to catastrophic levels towards the end of the century.

Oceans are warmer, Mr Gore said, and the evaporation from these warmer oceans causes greater rainfall in some areas and the heat evaporates moisture from the ground soil, which is creating worsening droughts.

He added that catastrophic weather events and water and food shortages are set to increase. Governments and businesses need to contribute to addressing these risks by reducing pollution and by implementing alternative energy resources, such as wind and solar technology.

A one percent Celsius increase in the projected mean temperature was found to decrease wheat yields by nearly 21 percent, influenced by global warming pollution. “Between 2006 and 2010 a climate-related drought destroyed 60% of farms in Syria. In 2010, 80% of cattle were killed by the drought.  The Syrian minister of agriculture was quoted saying that the political consequences of the drought were beyond the government’s capacity to deal with it.”

One million people in Syria fled the farms and homes due to the drought, which was more than the government could cope with. By 2040 Africa will have a greater population than China or India. South Africa already faces severe water shortages. By 2030, South Africa’s water demand will exceed supply by 17%, he said.

Mr Gore noted that the use of alternate energy is growing. There are now 79 nations worldwide where solar power is less expensive than electricity. By 2020, this should increase to 82%. “South Africa is the most attractive solar market in the world,” Mr Gore said.  Alternate energy is starting to take off with many solar and wind farms now operational in the Western and Northern Cape.

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