Climate change can devastate Africa

he world’s poorest and least developed continent is also most at risk from climate change, an ironic twist as it produces the least warming-causing greenhouse gases of any of Earth’s inhabited continents, they say.

As environmentalists, scientists and government negotiators from 189 nations meet here for a crucial UN climate change conference, threats to Africa have taken the spotlight with urgent calls to avert looming disaster.

Global warming is not only hampering African efforts to deal with endemic poverty and underdevelopment, they threaten to undermine them completely, throwing Africa into a morass of misery, experts say.

“Poverty and climate change are inextricably linked,” the relief agency Christian Aid said in a report released ahead of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Nairobi.

“It is the poor of the world who are already suffering disproportionately from the effects of global warming,” it said.

And nowhere on the planet is more poor than Africa.

“Africa is the continent probably most vulnerable of all to the negative effects of climate change and the one that faces the greatest challenges to adapt,” British-based charity Oxfam said in an October report.

This vulnerability is explained in part by the fact that 70 percent of its population — who account for 90 percent of its poor — work and live in agriculture, more than 95 percent of which is dependent on increasingly erratic seasonal rains, according to the United Nations.

As such, global warming and its effect on weather patterns pose multiple problems for Africans.

Central Kenya’s once-fertile Mtitoandei region, for example, has been largely without rain for the past 10 years, turning a lush greenbelt into a virtual desert, killing agriculture and reducing the number of farmers from 300 to two in just the span of a decade, according to Oxfam.

The effect may be pronounced in Kenya, host of the UN meeting,.

But it goes well beyond east Africa, reducing production of staple foods and grains and threatening the entire continent with catastrophe in the coming decades.

“Cereal crop yields will decline by up to five percent by the 2080s … suffering climate-linked falls,” the United Nations said on Sunday, referring to staples in Ethiopia, Eritrea, the Gambia, Ghana, Sudan and Zambia. ‘ AFP.

November 2006
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