Overlapping impacts of climate change such as drought or flooding, declining crop yields or ecosystem damages create hotspots of risk in specific parts of Africa. These are for the first time identified in a study now published by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. The uncertainties in assessing the impacts do not necessarily hamper but can inform development strategies, according to the scientists. Likelihood and potential severity of impacts can be weighed to decide on suitable adaptation measures.
"We found three regions to be amongst those most at risk in a couple of decades: parts of Sudan and Ethiopia, the countries surrounding lake Victoria in central Africa, and the very southeast of the continent, including most notably parts of South Africa, Mozambique, Zimbabwe," says lead-author Christoph Mller. They are projected to see more severe dry seasons and reduced growth of plants, and near Lake Victoria floodings. These regions are the ones in sub-Saharan Africa where, by the end of the century, a combination of high likelihood and possibly severe climate change impacts hits territories with relatively high population and high poverty rates. "We tried to identify the places where climate change really hurts most," Mller says.
While climate change is a global issue, impacts vary widely
"The good news is that large countries such as Nigeria and the tropical forests of the Congo region are likely to be much less affected," Mller stresses. While climate change certainly is a global challenge, as greenhouses-gases from the use of fossil fuels disturb ecosystems worldwide, the impacts vary widely over space and time. Up to now, most studies address singular aspects of climate change impacts only, even though multiple stresses amplify the vulnerability. Hence the importance of identifying hotspots and a composite impact measure that explicitly addresses the issue of uncertainty.
"It's all about risks,"
|Contact: Jonas Viering|
Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK)