Global warming and climate change are contentious topics, with some denying the existence and evidence pointing to the issue.
Despite this, it seems South Africa is already experiencing significant effects of climate change, particularly as a result of increased temperatures and water variability.
This is according to a National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy published by the Department of Environmental Affairs in May.
The department claims the observed rate of warming has been 2°C per century or even higher. This might not seem a drastic increase for some, but the department claims this is more than twice the global rate of temperature increase for the western parts and the northeast.
At the time of the report being published, the Department said there is evidence that extreme weather events in South Africa are increasing.
This includes heatwave conditions, dry spell durations lengthening slightly, and rainfall intensity increasing.
Furthermore, the department explains climate zones across the country are shifting, ecosystems and landscapes are being degraded, veld fires are becoming more frequent, and overused natural terrestrial and marine systems are under immense stress.
In its report, the Department of Environmental Affairs provided a summary of anticipated changes in both the temperature and rainfall in South Africa.
The changes are based on ‘high mitigation’ and ‘low mitigation’ scenarios.
In a low mitigation scenario, the department claims the temperatures are set to increase radically. In fact, before the end of the current century, the department expects temperature increases greater than 4°C across South Africa, with further increases greater than 6°C possible in the western, central and northern interior.
The department also expects an increase in the number of heat-wave days and exceptionally hot days, where these above temperatures will become more common or even exceeded.
In a high mitigation scenario, the department said that an increase in temperatures in the interior could be constrained to between 2.5 to 4°C.
Regarding rainfall, the department claims there is a degree of uncertainty around rainfall projections in temperature projections.
Under a low mitigation scenario, South Africa is set to experience drier conditions overall. In addition, the department said that it expects to see an increase in ‘extreme rainfall events’ in the interior of the country.
However, the projections for a high mitigation scenario differ.
A large number of projections predict wetter conditions over the central and eastern interior.
How will this all impact South Africans?
Some of the concerns surrounding climate change include:
- An increase in ‘direct wave impacts’ and coastal flooding/inundation;
- Flooding of low-lying areas and erosion;
- Quadruple burden of disease;
- Poor housing, infrastructure and service delivery;
- Deteriorating water quality in river systems, water storage reservoirs and groundwater.
During the month of October, Sipho Kings (news editor for Mail & Guardian) reported carbon emissions would have to drop by 45% by 2030 if we are going to succeed in keeping global temperature increases to below 1.5 °C.
Kings explained how in 2018, the United Nation’s climate agency – the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — released a report that posed what is at stake.
The report, Global Warming of 1.5 °C, is where scientists used a sense of urgency to what will happen to the earth if there is no decrease in carbon emissions.
Carbon emissions stem from vehicles, factories, power plants and cattle. These emissions float into the atmosphere and stay there, turning the planet into a gigantic greenhouse.
With a temperature change of 1.5 °C, our very environment changes drastically. This includes melting icebergs and the way bees live and pollinate plants.
With ecosystems hanging in the balance, the South African government did not initially believe the UN science.
However, during the month of September, in a letter to the UN, President Cyril Ramaphosa promised large-scale reductions to be incorporated in the country’s new energy plan.
If this promise is to be kept, remains to be seen. However, the fact remains, climate change exists and it will become worse; if mankind does not come up with feasible solutions.
What are your thoughts on climate change and global warming? Do you feel the necessary steps will be taken to ensure our environments and ecosystems do not suffer further? Or do you believe global warming is a myth?
Share your views and thoughts with us in the comment section below.