Climate change: Up to 30% of Africa’s coast could disappear as sea levels rise

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By Boss Brown

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC] report indicates that Up to 30 per cent of Africa’s coast could disappear as sea levels rise from between 15cm to 95cm in the next 100 years. Important cities such as Cape Town, Dar es Salaam and Maputo are at risk.

If sea levels were to rise by one meter, part of Lagos, the economic centre of Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria, would be submerged. Alexandria, a popular tourist destination in Egypt, could also suffer.

The number of people at risk in Africa from coastal flooding will rise from one million in 1990 to 70 million by 2080. The report gives a stark assessment of what could happen on the continent if developed nations do not rein in their carbon emissions,[IPCC] report indicates that climate change will take place faster than we have thought and face catastrophes that the planet has never experienced in the history of the planet.

Earth’s temperature rising by as much as five degrees Celsius (9.0 degrees Fahrenheit) from pre-industrial levels on current pledges, instead of the 2 C (3.6 F) limit targeted under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change [UNFCCC] repot indicated that “meaningful partnership with government and business, supported by a series of practical actions, has the best chance of providing solutions.

In particular, this should address the issue of increasing concentrations of population and economic wealth in high risk areas, for example on coasts”. The report also focuses on adaptation but recognizing that mitigation of the risk itself (i.e. the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions) is extremely essential.

The report warned that the effect of climate change in Africa is “even more acute” than experts had feared. Up to 70 million people could be at risk from rising sea levels, while droughts, which have overwhelmed the Horn of Africa with increasing regularity, will be more common. The effects of global warming on some of the world’s poorest people must be the main focus at the climate change talks.

Governments, Business and NGO’s around the world should discuss how the world will deal with climate change after the Kyoto Protocol comes to an end of this year. The protocol, which was supposed to cut the emissions of industrial nations, was only implemented by 35 countries. The US refused to sign up, while China and India, two of the fastest growing economies, are not party to it.

“Global warming may proceed at or even above the upper extreme of the range projected by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).” The report indicates. Concentration of carbon dioxide [CO2] could increase by about a factor of two to four above pre-industrial levels by the end of this century. However, recent scientific work suggests that a component of these IPCC scenarios may be underestimated.  In the past, about half of all carbon dioxide emissions have been absorbed by natural ‘sinks’ in ecosystems and oceans. Until recently, it was assumed that this would continue.

Emissions from carbon dioxide and other toxic waste, though currently unlikely, could be extremely large, contributing to very rapid climate change. The report aims to connect business issues to scientific solutions.

Today, approximately half the world’s populations – some three billion people – live within 200 kilometers of the coastline. By 2025, the number is likely to double to six billion if current trends continue unchecked. These populations will be increasingly at risk from large, sudden changes in sea level, in addition to the slow change we might expect from gradual melting. Land-locked ice does not have to melt to impact sea levels; once it breaks off and floats freely on the ocean the sea level rises immediately.

Solutions must be found now to reverse the trend towards further increasing population concentrations in affected areas, especially coastal areas. The report believes that a meaningful partnership between government, society and the insurance industry has the best chance of success.

This should lead to appropriate land-use and building policies for affected areas, with construction in high risk areas discouraged, and the insurance industry creating incentives for policyholders to respond appropriately to manage risk, building these into terms and conditions of policies.

The projected rate of increase in global temperatures for the 21st century is likely to be the fastest of any century in the past 10,000 years. Some of the causes of these trends are natural. However, scientists have now shown beyond reasonable doubt that global warming caused by human activity is also a key factor.

Recent evidence suggests that the impact will be worse than the IPCC report predicts. One reason for this is that natural carbons sink are not performing as well as they have in the past.

Africa, a continent of more than 800 million people, is already feeling the effects of climate change. It has warmed by 0.7C during the 20th century. Rainfall in the Sahel region, just below the Sahara, has fallen by 25 per cent in the last 30 years. Africa’s tropical rain forests have also witnessed a fall in precipitation of 2.4 per cent each decade since the mid-1970s.

This post has already been read 10148 times!



  1. klem

    May 29, 2012 at 4:45 PM

    “The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC] report indicates that Up to 30 per cent of Africa’s coast could disappear as sea levels rise from between 15cm to 95cm in the next 100 years.”

    Um, ocean rise of 15cm to 95 cm over 100 years, is the same as 1.5 to 9.5 mm per year. The average of the two is 5.5 mm per year. That’s a rather familiar number.

    According to WIkipedia the oceans have risen an average of 6mm per year for the last 20,000 years. The IPCCs estimate for the next 100 years is right on the money, just more of the same thing since the last glaciation. Thanks IPCC, you’ve put my mind at ease.



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