Description of the region
Many Africans live in areas that are prone to droughts, floods and famine or disease outbreaks. Climate-related impacts are likely to impose additional pressures on vital sectors such as agriculture, health and water, exacerbated by development challenges, limited funding and infrastructure, and ecosystem degradation. These, in turn, lessen Africa’s adaptive capacity, increasing its sensitivity to projected climate change (IPCC Fourth Assessment Report). Better climate services will enhance the adaptive capacity of African countries to some of the projected impacts. Incorporating better climate risk management into development policies and strategies will enhance socio-economic development and improve the well-being of African peoples.
Some 70 per cent of Africans—or some 700 million people—rely on farming for their survival. More than 95 per cent of African agriculture depends on rainfall. It is projected, however, that climate variability and change will severely affect agricultural production in many regions. Planting area, the length of growing season and potential yield—particularly along the edges of semi-arid and arid areas—are expected to decrease. Improvement in the provision and use of climate services is essential to help farmers make informed decisions to maximize and ultimately increase output.
Societies worldwide are exposed to the negative impacts of climate variability and change in relation to health. Many diseases are linked to the non-availability of clean water, as well as to the occurrence of extreme climate events. Changing climate conditions will alter the geographic and seasonal range of certain infectious diseases such as malaria, cholera, diarrhea and dengue. Malaria is a killer in most African countries and global warming has already caused epidemics to spread to higher altitudes and latitudes. Meningitis, which is associated with dust and high temperatures, is another major challenge to Africa societies. Climate services are useful for early warnings of disease outbreaks, as well as for monitoring and managing them. With better climate services and communication between climate scientists and the health sector, it will be possible to reduce both the risks to societies and the costs borne by national governments.
Water and drought
In Africa, climate change and variability are likely to impose additional pressures on the availability of, and accessibility to, water, while population increases will place further demands on meager water supplies. We already know that several countries, particularly in northern Africa, will exceed the limits of their water resources before 2025. About 20 per cent of Africa’s population (about 200 million) currently experience high water stress (IPCC Fourth Assessment Report). With better climate services, decision-makers will be able to take measures against climate-related risks. These services are crucial for the formulation of appropriate policies, including the management of water resources, and the mainstreaming of disaster risk reduction into national development plans and strategies for sustainable development.
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