It is over a month since the final draft of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report “Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis” was published. Although the report will undergo some reviews before its final official release, a glance through the report reveals that we are approaching dangerous climate change levels and exceeding planetary boundaries. Current atmospheric CO2 levels are over 390.5 parts per million by volume (ppm). This CO2 concentration is 40% higher than what existed in 1750 (preindustrial levels). Moreover, acquired data on global combined land and surface temperature reveals an increase of about 0.89oC between 1901 and 2012.
The findings show that we have exceeded by 12% the 350 ppm threshold. We are on route to environmental catastrophe.
What does this mean for Climate Change in Africa?
Africa has contributed very little to anthropogenic-induced climate change but there are strong indications that the continent will be most impacted by climatic change.
Already, the intensity of extreme events such as droughts and floods is on the increase on the continent. The resultant impacts of these extreme events continues to increase the number of displaced people on the continent, affect food and portable water supplies, accelerate biodiversity extinction rate and also create a conducive environment for bio-invasion.
Extreme events aggravated by high poverty levels will no doubt lower the resilience of the continent to better adapt to climate change.
So, what are the next mitigation moves for Climate Change in Africa?
The mitigation options at the continent’s disposal include reducing reliance on cars, using more efficient cars and increasing sustainable public transport, substituting coal powered stations with gas fired plants, improving the efficiency of newly built and existing power plants, constructing more efficient buildings, investing in renewable energy resources, reducing deforestation and increasing the continent’s CO2 sequestration capacity through afforestation and reforestation, practising conservation tillage, capturing CO2 at coal-to-synfuels plants, substituting coal power with nuclear power and also investing in carbon capture and storage. As a whole, these measures have the potential to reduce the continent’s energy usage, cut greenhouse gas emissions and in turn help the global effort to ward-off dangerous climate change levels.
However, the challenge for the continent is an economic and political one. Can the continent afford to invest in these advanced technologies whilst trying to cope with unrelenting poverty and public health issues, wide scale corruption and failing public infrastructure?
What of adaptation to Climate Change in Africa?
In order to better adapt to the impacts of climate change, African countries needs to build more resilience into their infrastructural systems. Although not exhaustive, investing in more energy efficient cooling technologies such as combined cooling, heat and power (CCHP) and district cooling systems, practising sustainable agriculture, introducing sustainable urban drainage systems, investing in less energy intensive irrigation systems, practising integrated pest management, constructing more energy efficient buildings and scaling up existing ones, designing early warning flood risk detection systems and developing contingency plans to relocate flood prone neighbourhoods would undoubtedly help in adapting to climate change in Africa.
Yet again the constraints are economic and that of political will.
Oluwabamise Lanre Afolabi holds a master’s degree in Energy and the Environment from Lancaster Environment Centre (Lancaster University) and a bachelor degree in Environmental Management and Toxicology from the University of Agriculture, Abeokuta. During his postgraduate studies, he undertook research for an environmental consulting firm in Manchester on the Water-Energy Nexus and Futures of the UK Water Industry. Oluwabamise has also worked on various environmental impact assessments projects while in the industry. He has a special research interest in energy security, energy access, climate change, scenario planning, sustainable energy development, water-energy nexus, and other related energy and environment issues.