Africa and climate change; no one says it has to be fair

Mark Twain observed that the thing about land is that they have stopped making it. The observation is not quite true, because land is being made as estuaries silt up and volcanoes erupt, but land is also being lost as cliffs are eroded and coastlines fight against sea levels which are marginally rising. If no new land is being made, what is certain is that much land is being spoiled, and spoiled by human activity.

A UN report, which you can find at is mainly concerned with population increases and explains a trend in Africa which will see it move from a predominantly urban environment to a predominantly rural one., over the next twenty years, but the report also highlights another problem, which is not unique to Africa – that of retreating coastlines and the effect upon Africa of climate change.

This is particularly important in Africa as most of the west coast population and cities are located at the coast. A quarter of Africans live within a hundred kilometres of the coast and the land where they live is already threatened by climate change in the form of rising sea levels and more violent storms and floods and other extreme weather events. Extreme drought threatens because it adds to desertification and when the rains do come the topsoil if often just washed away, leaving a new real desert.

The coast of Senegal along the Gulf of Guinea is retreated in some places by a metre a year, and in other places by thirty metres a year. Twenty years ago a million people lived in Nigeria in places where there was a real flooding risk; in seventy years time that number may well have increased to seventy million souls, according to the Report. As we have seen in many tropical regions it is not just the flooding that kills and disrupts, but the effect of the flooding – softening land and making landslides and mud slides happen, engulfing people.

Of course not all of Africa’s problems are caused by climate change, but Africa will feel the worse effects of climate change. The continent produces no more than 4.5% of the world’s emissions, having a population of one billion out of a world population of 6.7 billion. The United States however produces around a quarter of the world’s emissions having a population of only 5% of the world’s population.

Africa is also the continent that is the least equipped to deal with the effects of climate change. It is not fair. Doubtless some Africans will respond to the effects of climate change by seeking to live in places that are less threatened by climate change as much of their own continent becomes uninhabitable by humanity’s greed and carelessness.


One Response

  1. Africa and climate change; no one says it has to be fair « Robert ……

    Here at World Spinner we are debating the same thing……

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