|How and why is Africa’s climate changing?
The idea that the world’s climate is changing, and that human activity is at least one of the causes of this change, was a controversial subject for many years. However, there is now almost universal agreement that certain factors such as the burning of fossil fuels and the loss of trees to deforestation, have increased the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, resulting in global warming. But while this may be the general trend on a global level and over a long time-scale, the picture of climate change within a continent such as Africa on a season-to-season basis is much more complicated.
For example, in terms of rainfall, the changes occurring vary between different parts of the continent. In general, rainfall amounts have decreased in West Africa and have increased slightly in East Africa. In southern Africa the pattern of rainfall is becoming more uneven; for example there tend to be more very wet or very dry years, rather than consistent seasonal rainfall patterns from year to year. (ref. personal communication, Declan Conway, UEA)
Is climate change an important issue?
Despite ongoing concern about global warming, reflected in international agreements on carbon dioxide emissions, such as the Kyoto protocol, many governments have been slow to respond to the threats posed by climate change. There are two main reasons for this: firstly, changes in climate and their consequences occur over a long time period, but most governments tend to focus on issues which can win them support from voters in the short term. Secondly, there continues to be a lot of uncertainty about how exactly global warming will affect weather patterns, for example, whether rainfall will increase or decrease, and therefore it has been difficult for authorities to know exactly what they should be responding to.
One of the points made by Declan Conway in the interview A clearer picture of change, is that there is now much more certainty about how the climate is changing in different parts of Africa. Also, one of the most obvious changes is the increase in extreme weather events, such as storms, floods and droughts. These are things that will seriously affect people, even in the short term - recent examples include flooding in Mozambique, and drought in Zimbabwe. Therefore, it is time that both governments and people began to respond to the challenge of climate change, or the consequences in loss of life, livestock and crops will be serious.
|Theme:||Environmental Protection and Natural Resources Management|
|Year of Publication:||2003|
|Issue:||Rural Radio Resource Pack 03/04|
|Search events:||CTA, 1993, Seminar, Santa Domingo|