Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Africa is the continent most affected by global warming, but is the least prepared to tackle the causes of climate change, experts said on Sunday ahead of a major international environment conference.
International action to reduce the effects of global warming should include helping improve Africa's climate change monitoring capacity, Achim Steiner, executive director, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), told a news conference in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.
"The countries on the continent can better tailor their response in areas from agriculture to health care, and international donors can better understand Africa's needs now, and in the future," Steiner said.
Rising sea levels could destroy an estimated 30 percent of Africa's coastal infrastructure, according to a new UN report on the impact of climate change on the continent. Coastal settlements in the Gulf of Guinea, Senegal, Gambia and Egypt could be flooded, according to the report produced by the Secretariat of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
By 2080, global warming could lead to a 5 percent fall in the production of food crops, such as sorghum in Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Zambia; maize in Ghana; millet in Sudan; and groundnuts in Gambia.
Climate change could also lead to natural disasters in the form of severe droughts and devastating floods that would threaten the lives of Africa’s 812 million inhabitants, the report added.
Ironically, however, Africa produces the least amount of the greenhouse gases blamed for climate change.
Other major concerns include the problem of water shortages, which could affect up to 480 million people. The report claims that between 25 percent and 40 percent of natural habitats in Africa could be lost by 2085.
"Part of the action, part of the adaptation response, and part of this responsibility to Africa, must include significant improvements in Africa's climate and weather monitoring capabilities," Steiner said.
An estimated 25 percent of global climate observation stations in East and Southern Africa are not functioning, while most of the remaining facilities are working in a less than an optimum manner, the UNFCCC report said.
"Africa is the largest of all tropical landmasses and, at 30 million square km, is about a fifth of the world's total land area. Yet the climate observing system in Africa is in a far worse and deteriorating state than that of any other continent," Michel Jarraud, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organisation, said in a statement.
"There are also major impacts in highly elevated areas like Mount Kenya and Mount Kilimanjaro whose glaciers, ice caps and run-off are important for water supplies. Overall it is estimated that Africa needs 200 automatic weather stations, a major effort to rescue historical data, and improved training and capacity building on climate and weather reporting," he added.
The UN Climate Change Conference will coincide with the second session of the Conference of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol, a treaty committing signatories to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
More than 6,000 delegates from around the world are expected in Nairobi for the 6-17 November conference.