Africa: North and South to be hit hard by climate change, East will become wetter

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The dangers of climate change could have a far more devastating effect on Africa than previously thought, warned a renowned British Scientist. Professor Gordon Conway, outgoing chief scientist at the Department of International Development and professor of international development at the Imperial College London, predicts that Africa could be hit by harsh food shortages.

Professor Gordon Conway said in a scientific paper that the continent is already warming faster than the global average and the expectation of more intense floods, droughts and storm surges may be difficult to be averted. “There is already evidence that Africa is warming faster than the global average with more warm spells and fewer extremely cold days. Northern and Southern Africa are likely to become as much as 4C hotter over the next 100 years, and much drier,” he wrote.

The highly-placed scientist who helped oversee a major expansion in the UK government’s support for GM research in developing countries including Africa said the coming century could see Africa’s poor hit the hardest as reductions in crop yields could be as much as 50% come 2020 and 90% in 2100.

20 million displaced already

The impact of climate change is already being felt in the horn of Africa – Ethiopia, Kenya and Eritrea. Many have been displaced since the past years and are receiving food aids through the United Nations at Make-shift camps across East Africa. A recent joint study by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the Geneva-based Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, states that in 2008 alone, climate-related natural disasters like droughts, hurricanes and floods forced about 20million people out of their homes.

Jean Ping, head of the Commission of the African Union was quoted by IRIN News as saying “more and more people are likely to be displaced” due to more frequent droughts and floods brought about by climate change.

Only a few months ago, West Africa suffered from a powerful flood, caused by torrential rains, that swept houses away and displaced many. An estimated 600,000 people were affected in 16 countries. Senegal, Ghana, Burkina Faso, Niger and Mauritania suffered most, where vegetables crops and live stocks were destroyed on a massive scale.


But Professor Conway, the British Scientist, said there is hope despite the catastrophic climate change effect on the continent. He held the view that East Africa that presently suffered from drought and food shortages will become wetter. He however said with population growth, there is drastic need to grow more food. “We are going to need an awful lot more crop production – 70-100% more food will be needed than at present.

“In certain circumstances we will need GM crops because we wont be able to find the gene naturally. GM may be the speediest and most efficient way to increase yields. Drought tolerance is governed by a range of genes. It is a big problem for breeders of both GM and ordinary plants,” he said.

Meanwhile, ahead of the UN summit on climate change, in Copenhagen, Denmark in December, the British Energy and Climate Change secretary, Ed Miliband said last week that rich countries need to provide funds for the adaptation to global warming in developing countries.

The European Union (EU) has already set a target of 100 billion euros as a global annual target for climate change funds to developing countries. These monies, heads of EU states said, on Saturday at the EU summit, would be derived from public sources in the rich countries.

“Such monies could go down the drain if countries such as the United States of America and China who are the biggest polluters of the environment, don’t commit themselves to climate change regulations,” said Oliver Akpa, an environmental campaigner.

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