How much worse are African droughts because of man-made climate change?


The once-fertile fields of South Africa’s Western Cape region are filled with scorched patches of earth, dying plants, and wasted crops.

The scene is now common throughout eastern and southern Africa, as droughts for three consecutive years have decimated crops and caused widespread hunger. New research indicates that it is partly due to climate change driven by human action, which has worsened the El NiAo weather phenomenon.

This is about as bad as it has ever been, said Chris Harvey, as he walked to his farms irrigation dam, where the water level has fallen six metres in 10 months.

We might not be able to grow any vegetables next year, his wife Sue added.

Dams in the area are drying out, symptomatic of the continents battle with years of poor rainfall. The droughts in eastern and southern Africa beginning in 2015 have affected tens of millions of people. The latest numbers from the UN suggest that 24 million people are facing food insecurity in eastern Africa alone, not counting millions of people in the southern region.

According to a new study published by the American Meteorological Society, such conditions will become increasingly normal as climate change takes its toll.

We are advising governments to expect yearly disasters, droughts, floods, and also now diseases, David Phiri, the UNs food and agriculture coordinator in Southern Africa, told IRIN.

No surprise

In South Africa, dams are down to 37 percent capacity, according to the government. Farmers say that actually means 27 percent in practical terms.

The last 10 percent are unusable, said Harvey. Its been lying too long on the bottom.

Researchers associated with the United States Geological Survey found that man-made climate change contributed to the 2015/2016 droughts and most likely to the reduced short rains, a second rainy season that usually occurs at this time of year in southern Africa.

SEE: El NiAo in Africa in 2016

Their research, published in the American Meteorological Society’s December bulletin, explains how man-made climate change worsened El NiAo.

The phenomenon occurs naturally every several years as a patch of warm water appears in the Pacific Ocean, which can lead to weather fluctuations including unseasonably dry periods. It is often followed by La NiAa, which is associated with below average ocean temperatures and can lead to weather impacts that are opposite to El NiAo.

Lead researcher Chris Funk, a professor at University of Santa Barbara, described in an interview how the oceans warm due to climate change, and very warm surface temperatures develop in pockets of the sea. These warm patches often increase the impact of natural climate variations that accompany El NiAo, which can intensify droughts in food insecure areas.

For Africa, increases of about 0.9 degrees in both sea temperatures in the eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean and air temperatures in eastern and southern Africa have meant reduced rainfall.

Our research shows that man-made climate change is making the impacts of both El NiAo and La NiAa climate variations stronger in Africa � meaning what weve seen in the last 18 months, said Funk.

Although climate change alone did not cause the drought, it certainly made it stronger, according to Funk.

The study has yet to be reviewed by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which is the leading expert body on climate change and does not comment on research until it is reviewed.

Richard Washington, a climate science professor at Oxford University, said he agreed with the findings overall, although he cautioned that they were based on linear research. One limitation is for example: how does the Indian Ocean influence climate El NiAo?

Worst drought in decades

The UN has labelled it the worst drought in 35 years in southern Africa. . Almost 580,000 children are in need of treatment for severe acute malnutrition, and more than three million children have reduced access to safe drinking water.

We estimate that more than 40 million people will be affected by food insecurity until March, said Phiri, the UN food and agriculture coordinator. Crops from last year are gone, and no new crops are ready.

The UN is targeting 13.8 million people in southern Africa alone for humanitarian assistance during the peak of the lean season, which lasts until April. The worst-hit countries � Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe � are being specifically targeted by the World Food Programme.

David Orr, a spokesman for the WFP in southern Africa, sees positive short-term signs, as rainfalls have started again. But he still expects more frequent and more intense extreme weather events in the near future. Those include drought and flooding as a result of upsets in the global weather system, he said.

If extended weather events of this kind, covering several cropping seasons, become more frequent, they’ll have devastating consequences for millions of poor and vulnerable people, said Orr.

The situation on Harvey’s farm indicates the extent of the crisis.

We have got 10 weeks, then we run out of water, said Harvey. Hopefully it will rain in at Easter, but if it does not, then we have a serious problem. There will not be enough water for the crops.

As he walked up the dry bank of his shrinking dam, looking hopefully at the cloudless sky, he emphasised how this not only concerns the individual farmer: What is on the line here, are thousands and thousands of jobs. It is a lot of peoples livelihoods we are talking about here, not just a few people and their crops.

Source: IRIN

Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane: Remarks at conclusion of working visit by Minister Gebran Bassil of Lebanon


Media remarks by Minister Nkoana-Mashabane at the conclusion of the working visit of Minister Gebran Bassil of Lebanon, OR Tambo Building

Your Excellency, Minister Gebran Bassil, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants,

Senior Officials,

Members of the Media,

We have just concluded our bilateral discussions which have been characterised by the usual friendliness and comradeship.

The Government of South Africa attaches great importance to the ties that have been built between our country and the Republic of Lebanon and we look forward to enhancing our relations further.

Your Excellency, once again, I convey my Government’s congratulations for the manner in which the Lebanese nation addressed the question of leadership, resulting in the current democratic dispensation. The election of President Michel Aoun and the installation of Prime Minister Hariri symbolise a historic transition. We hope that this new era will enable us to take our relations to a higher and fruitful level.

South Africa enjoys friendly diplomatic relations with Lebanon. An important element is a sizeable community of South Africans of Lebanese origin (estimated at 30 000), the first components of which dates back more than a century ago.

The Conference of the Lebanese Diaspora Energy (LDE), African Chapter, hosted by Minister Bassil yesterday in Sandton, presented an opportunity for us to meet with the objective of strengthening bilateral political and economic relations between South Africa and Lebanon.

The LDE Conference brought together some of the most prominent business leaders from Lebanon, who have witnessed the growing importance of Africa in advancing trade and investment with our continent, and here in South Africa. We hope that this conference will further strengthen the economic ties between our countries and by extension Lebanon’s relations with our Southern Africa regional partners, as well as the entire African continent.

This is in line with our foreign policy priorities that places the African continent at the centre of our international relations programme. As you are aware, I have just returned from a very successful African Union Summit that was held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where we had the opportunity to discuss our continent’s political and economic realities.

South Africa and Lebanon share common positions on the Middle East Peace Process. We both support the two-state solution � we support the inalienable right of Palestinians to a sovereign homeland, and are strongly opposed to the continued settlement expansion being pursued by the government of Israel.

Our discussions today also focused on enhancing our understanding of the current developments in Lebanon and the region broadly, particularly insofar as it relates to the political, socio-economic and security challenges that confront Lebanon and the region currently.

We also used our discussions to identify and strengthen areas of potential co-operation between our countries, particularly in regards to the increased trade, tourism and investment relations, and possible joint action between South Africa and Lebanon.

It is in this regard, we agreed to facilitate the finalisation of the following Draft Agreements that are currently being processed:

MoU on Bilateral Consultation/Co-operation;

MoU on Economy & Trade Co-operation;

Finance Co-operation Agreement – Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Protection of Investment

Bilateral Air Services Agreement;

Tourism Co-operation Agreement;

Judicial Services Co-operation Agreement; and

Agreement on the Abolishment of Visas (Diplomatic, Special & Service Passports)

In conclusion allow me to indicate that we already have a growing Lebanese business community active in our economy in the communications sector, agriculture, cement production, property development and construction.

I am certain that we will continue to strengthen our ties and further explore new areas of cooperation.

Minister, I would now like to hand over to you to address the media.

Thank you.

Source: Government of South Africa