The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the creature of the United Nations charged with collecting and collating scientific, technical and socio-economic data on climate change, has bad news for Africa. Their reports show that despite Africa being least responsible for the burning of fossil fuels causing climate change, she will bear the brunt of the detrimental effects.
The mean temperatures, including hot extremes, have been worse in Africa than in global trends. As a result, average surface temperature rises have been more intense in Africa, and sea level rises have been happening more rapidly over the past 30 years. It will likely lead to coastal flooding and erosion on sandy coasts, which are abundant in Africa. The IPCC projects that both hot and cold extremes will intensify.
In terms of region, the Mediterranean in North Africa is projected to have less rain and wind speeds, creating premium conditions for wildfires, water scarcity, droughts, famines and aridification. On the other hand, the Sahara region, which is famously dry and least populated, will see more rain and flooding.
West Africa will have an increase in precipitation, leading to river flooding and negatively affecting agriculture. Central Africa will see destabilised rainfall patterns projected to cause ecological droughts. Central Africa will have heavier rain episodes leading to devastating floods.
North-eastern Africa will have less rainfall, and the few glaciers there will shrink drastically. Still, there will be seasons of abnormally heavy rain which will cause flooding and droughts. South-eastern Africa will also have an increased frequency and intensity of heavy rain and flooding and a decrease in snow and glaciers. Tropical cyclones will also be more frequent. It is noteworthy that Kenya sits between the regions of North-eastern and East Southern Africa. Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia are at the grips of unprecedented drought, and it seems they are getting more frequent and more severe.
East Southern Africa and West Southern Africa will have a decrease in average rainfall. Yet, heavy rain episodes are projected to cause flooding, thus negatively affecting agriculture and causing droughts. Wildfires will likely become the norm, and tropical cyclones will increase.
Kenya has climate change legislation and a constitution that embraces the right to a clean environment and sustainable use of resources for current and future generations. However, very little has been done to cushion us from the projected changes that will upend our agricultural abilities and methods, water use, and biodiversity, which we rely on for the tourism industry. Moreover, climate change will likely increase wars and conflicts and the movement of people due to increased competition for scarce resources. Reports show that more refugees are crossing into Kenya due to the famine in Somalia.
Last week, the Cabinet announced plans to drastically increase Kenya’s forest cover, which will go a long way in halting desertification and increasing precipitation levels. Forests are good carbon sinks, slow down erosion, keep soils healthy, and support biodiversity, among other benefits.
We should also seriously consider other ecosystems, such as the protection and rehabilitation of wetlands which have been shown to sequester more carbon than forests. Lastly, we must adapt to the new reality regarding our livelihoods. Specific farming methods will have to be replaced with more sustainable models. More resilient plants and animals will replace what we have known for generations. We should be serious players in the carbon trading market and plan to tap into the recently announced Loss and Damage Fund with concrete proposals.
First published in The Standard on 16th December 2022. Kindly reproduced here with permission from the Standard.
Demas Kiprono is a human rights lawyer and a Campaign Manager at Amnesty International Kenya and writes in his personal capacity. Email: [email protected]