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Africa and Climate Change

The global emission gap

It is easy to mutually acknowledge that Africa contributes the least to global warming and climate change than any other continent on the planet. Africa as a whole accounts for only approximately 918 million metric tonnes of CO2, which is only about 2-3% of total global greenhouse gas emissions. In comparison, the United States emits 5.7 billion metric tonnes of CO2 each year, meaning one country alone accounts for 28% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Despite this massive disparity between an entire continent and a single country, Africa suffers as the most vulnerable and will continue to suffer disproportionately.

It's ironic that the people who contribute the least to global warming will bear the brunt of the consequences of climate change caused by the West's actions. It appears that history is repeating itself in the sense that the continent that was once destructed by the west through the practices of slavery and colonialism will be destroyed once more by the result of their contribution to climate change, years after colonization and the slave trade have ended. As a result, it is incumbent upon the nations most responsible for greenhouse gas emission to step forward and assist the continent that will suffer as a result of their negligence.

Behind africa's low emissions

As Africa is depicted as the world's poorest region, many assume that this is why the continent contributes the least to climate change—as if to suggest that Africa's lack of contribution to global emissions should not be praised because it isn't purposeful, but rather due to poverty and a lack of industrialisation. While it may be true that Africa lacks the resources to contribute to global emissions in the same manner that a country like the United States does, it is also critical to comprehend and seek inspiration from how Africans navigate money and lifestyle.

An important aspect to keep in mind about Africans is that they do not value riches in the same manner that the rest of the world does. The traditional definition of wealth in Africa is not defined by the sophisticated lifestyle enjoyed by individuals in the west, which is driven by consumerism and characterized by the encouragement of unnecessary acquisition of material possessions in ever increasing amounts. In Africa, land is viewed as the primary source of wealth and so many actually choose to live an agricultural way of life that outsiders may categorise as "poor." As a result, for many years, many Africans have practised and continue to practise sustainable lifestyles and African people are recognised to be resourceful in nature, which explains why there is so little contribution to global emissions from the continent, and for this, they should be credited.

What does this mean for Africa?

Climatic change is having an increasing influence on the African continent, causing food insecurity, population displacement, and stress on water resources. Climate change is currently posing a growing concern to Africa, threatening human health, food and water security, particularly in rural areas. The repercussions of a global warming of more than 1.5 degrees Celsius would be severe. Southern Africa is expected to receive 20% less precipitation and an increase in the number of consecutive dry days in Mozambique, Botswana, Namibia, north-eastern Zimbabwe, and southern Zambia, potentially resulting in power outages in countries that rely on hydroelectric power, with serious consequences such as power outages at hospitals.

The impact of conditions such as drought due to climate change are wreaking havoc on Victoria Falls, one of the world's great natural wonders. According to Zimbabwe's Ministry of Environment, Climate, and Tourism, the average water flow of the falls in 2019 decreased by nearly 50%, and there is even speculation of the falls drying up completely.

Each region of Africa is changing climate in its own complex manner but there is promise on the scientific front. Scientists are working hard in joint efforts to enhance climate forecast and the experience and insights of African climate scientists have resulted in a discernible leap in our ability to understand and model African climate through efforts such as the ongoing Future Climate for Africa programme funded by the UK's Department for International Development and Natural Environment Research Council. Without such long-term and proactive participation initiatives to reduce the effects of climate change on rural people, Africa's people and unique and diverse lands suffer.


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