How is Climate Change affecting South Africa?

Here’s my ‘summary of the summary’ of a report published today by Earthlife Africa and Oxfam International.

‘In climate terms, South Africa is already living on the edge. Much of it is arid or semi-arid and the whole country is subject to droughts and floods. Even small variations in rainfall or temperatures would exacerbate this already stressed environment. Most South African crops are grown in areas that are only just climatically suitable and with limited water supplies.

But that climate is set to change for the worse because of rising global emissions of greenhouse gases. Indeed, there are already ominous signs of change – dry seasons are becoming longer and wet seasons starting later. Rainfall is reported to be becoming even more variable, with rain coming in more concentrated, violent bursts.

As the climate changes, it is South Africa’s poor, the majority of the population, who will be the hardest hit.  Climate change worsens existing vulnerabilities and adds to the pressures on the environment and natural resources on which so many South Africans directly rely. Climate change could increase the prevalence and distribution of vector-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever and water-borne diseases such as cholera and dysentery. Such things mean that people living with HIV/AIDS in particular would experience increased risks.

South Africa has been playing an influential role as a developing country in international climate change negotiations even though it is not yet obliged to make commitments to reduce emissions. But South Africa is also part of the problem – the largest emitter of green house gases on the African continent and home to the world’s biggest single emitter of CO2 (Sasol‘s Secunda plant, which converts coal to diesel and other fuels).

South Africa is faced with a difficult challenge in trying to juggle three imperatives – development (conventionally based on fossil fuels), poverty eradication and climate change. On the one hand, the country has to fast track provision of adequate transport, power, communication networks, water, sanitation and other infrastructure services. Much of this development implies that South Africa’s GHG emissions will increase. The provision of these services is essential to improving people’s well being and to reducing poverty.

On the other hand, conventional development as carried out in South Africa (like many other countries) has not focused on reducing poverty, will not reduce it by itself, and may sometimes exacerbate poverty and ill-health. And now South Africa also has to respond to the impacts of climate change by reducing emissions and helping poor people adapt to the changing climate.

Energy production is a particular concern. South Africa’s dependency on coal-fired power stations has already resulted in a yearly per capita emission rate of about 10 tons of carbon dioxide, 43 percent higher than the global average.  But despite extremely high per capita energy use, 30% of South African citizens do not have access to electricity.

So what needs to happen? To provide cleaner energy to all citizens equitably and effectively, South Africa needs to agree:

1. A moratorium on building further coal-fired plants
2. An immediate moratorium on any new coal-to-liquid plants.
3. The Treasury should institute its fossil fuel levy with immediate effect, revenue from this to be ring-fenced for Free Basic Electricity.
4. A staggered implementation of carbon taxation.
5. The provision of 1 million solar water heaters by 2020.
6. 15% of all electricity to come from renewable energy by 2020, and 50% by 2050.
7. Make energy efficiency in Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) housing a mandatory measure by 2015.
8. Invest in an efficient public transport system.
9. Promote gardening in urban and peri-urban areas and around homesteads.
10. Increase public awareness and promote behavioural change among consumers.

A year and a half ago, an official from the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) stood up before a group of environmentalists and NGO representatives and pleaded, “Where is the environmental movement? Where are the placards? We can’t change things without the pressure of citizens.” At the end of 2009, the governments of the world will meet to decide our collective fate at the UN climate change conference at Copenhagen; they have this one chance. Perhaps we should remind them just exactly who they are working for.’

Update: Ten years later (2018), this post was the most-read on FP2P, with thousands of people clicking on it, peaking in May/June – could someone leave a comment saying what is going on?

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Comments

11 Responses to “How is Climate Change affecting South Africa?”
    • Rob Manzoni

      So what exactly are the “serious problems” of global warming…?

      No-one seems to have any real idea, because – as promoted by the scaremongering idiots, dishonest and ignorant media and partly-corrupt “climate community”, it’s all a rather nebulous thing. We’re told that carbon dioxide (and in particular, human-generated carbon dioxide) is making the earth and sea heat up; and that two of the consequences of increasing CO2 in the atmosphere are:
      1. Sea level rise, due to thermal expansion of the water; and due to the melting glaciers as things warm up.
      2. Ocean acidifcation, as the oceans absorb the human-caused CO2.

      We’re told that the coming catastrophic rise in sea levels will force mass migration of coastal- and island communities…
      We’re told that the acid oceans will destroy the corals and kill all crustaceans…

      The Maldives (and Manhattan), according to the warnings, should have drowned, by now; and is it not interesting that the media refuse to call out the “experts” who made these confident predictions?

      There are no “serious problems” of global warming. Find another scam to propagate.

  1. This helped very much with my geography assignment. I gave credit where it was due. Thank you for posting this is helps students with understanding and South Africans by informing them of the real issues happening around them

  2. wiedad

    lf must to pretect the environment and thinking more really with sustainable development in natural resources and create the tool to improved and reduce the waste and prevent the pollution environmental

  3. R S Howard

    What would be the impact on their poor of South Africa, if, as well as the restrictions on building more coal-to-fuels plants, South Africans produced more wind, hydro, garbage and solar energy facilities and went away from gas-powered vehicles to electric or solar cars and electric or solar heating and electric cooking. As well as trying various intensive water filtration methods to glean more drinking water out of the natural water sources.

  4. Mbali H

    No guys this affects our rural places.
    Where will your grandparents farm or harvest . Think about those who don’t have any thing to eat or drink. It’s not as if there’s no food or water but because of the climate change

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