Impacts

We have produced a short booklet about climate change to help you, especially children, to understand what is it’s about and why it’s happening. Click on the link to download it:  climate-change-what-is-it. Below is a short summary of the impacts of climate change.

Some continents are more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change than others. Due to her low adaptive capacity, degradation of her natural resources, widespread poverty, and inequitable access to land, Africa is extremely vulnerable to climate change. Corruption, bad governance, conflict and political instability exacerbate this vulnerability.

Women queueing to fetch water

The likely impacts of climate change for the environment and people are very worrying:

  • Fragile habitats will disappear and less resilient species become extinct. Ecosystems such as the tropical forests are finely balanced, and species adapted to their local climates. If temperatures rise too fast, some plants and animals won’t like the change and won’t be able to adapt in time, so they’ll gradually die and disappear
  • Drying up of some water sources and more severe and frequent flooding of others
  • Loss of food sources and disruption of food chains with knock-on effects on other species, especially those that can’t adapt to different diets
  • Outbreaks of some diseases such as cholera will increase due to its association with floods and droughts, and others such as malaria will spread as temperatures rise and rainfall patterns change making new areas hospitable for malarial mosquitoes
  • Desertification and degradation of lands will extend, making more land unproductive and unable to support agriculture. Ironically, some temperate areas will favour new crops that enjoy the warmer climates and even compete with those currently grown in Africa and other hotter climates. Meanwhile productivity is already falling in Africa due to worsening floods, droughts and rising temperatures.

    Women carrying fuelwood: harvesting trees for fuel and other purposes contributes to degradation and desertificaton of the land, while tree loss also changes local climates

For people, the direct and obvious outcomes are dire:

  • Water stress and water crises
  • Food insecurity, hunger and starvation
  • Forced migration as lands become unproductive and water sources dry up
  • Social unrest and increased potential for violent conflict over increasingly scarce resources
  • Deeper and more widespread poverty
  • Huge economic costs to African economies.

Links to other existing problems are less obvious but very worrying:

Climate change and poverty: The lives of Africa’s poor people are most precarious. Their poverty and high dependence on natural resources together with their lack of alternative options and adaptive capacities means their subsistence, food security, health and livelihoods are easily threatened by any impact that damages their resources or limits access to them. Their uniquely precarious situation is why climate change endangers the lives and livelihoods of the poor so much more than anyone else.

Korle lagoon
Homes alongside the polluted Korle Lagoon that get flooded most years

This vulnerability is exacerbated even by the locations of their homes: poor people live in areas more prone to floods and storms because they can’t afford to live anywhere else. Take the Korle Lagoon, for example, where homes are flooded year after year but people remain there because they can’t go anywhere else. Poor people also farm the most degraded areas because they can’t afford the productive lands, and climate change will further the degradation until it becomes completely unproductive.

Gender: Women’s disproportionate dependence on natural resources to meet their families’ needs, coupled with their deeper poverty relative to men, means that dwindling resources are impacting more heavily on women. The lands they farm are already the most marginal and degraded, so productivity is low. Water and fuelwood are becoming increasingly scarce. Women’s work burdens are becoming heavier and more time consuming to achieve the same level of subsistence from a declining resource base. The time women have for earning an income is diminishing. For these reasons, it is essential that gender is integrated into climate change, especially actions towards adaptation and resilience.

Migration and conflict: When water resources dry up or lands become unproductive, people with no other options are forced to migrate to find the resources they need to stay alive. This is the effect that climate change is having. When people move, they compete with local people for scarce resources, risking conflict and violence.

Where nations share a resource, such as a river basin, the risk of conflict increases as the resource becomes more scarce. This can result in migration away from conflict zones, potentially causing uneasy relations and new conflicts in other areas if the newcomers are not welcome.  Because climate change exacerbates existing problems for poor people, the pressure for instability and civil unrest aimed at their own leaders also increases.

What can we do about it? The potential impacts are dire. But if we act now, we can stop the Earth’s temperature rising to dangerous levels. We can change our actions to help mitigate climate change, and we can build the capacities of our communities to adapt to the impacts. Read more

Advertisements