Climate change will  push millions of Africans into poverty: Oxfam

Prosper Ndlovu, Business Editor
OXFAM International has warned that the rising temperatures as a result of climate change could plunge millions of Africans into hunger and poverty unless governments take swift action to minimise the impact. The sentiment comes on the back of a recent report by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) detailing progress and pathways to limiting global warming to 1,5 degrees Celsius.

The panel is an intergovernmental body of the United Nations, dedicated to providing the world with an objective, scientific view of climate change and its political and economic impacts. Responding to the report, Oxfam International Pan-Africa director, Apollos Nwafor, said the reality of climate change has set the planet on fire with millions of vulnerable communities likely to suffer.

“Millions are already feeling the impacts, and the IPCC just showed that things can get much worse. Settling for two degrees would be a death sentence for people in many parts of Africa. The faster governments embrace the renewable energy revolution and move to protect communities at risk, the more lives and livelihoods that will be spared,” he said.

“A hotter Africa is a hungrier Africa. Today at only 1.1 degrees of warming globally, crops and livestock across the region are being hit and hunger is rising, with poor small-scale women farmers, living in rural areas suffering the most. It only gets worse from here.

“To do nothing more and simply follow the commitments made in the Paris Agreement condemns the world to three degrees of warming. The damage to our planet and humanity would be exponentially worse and irreparable.”

Natural disasters such as droughts and floods have been blamed for thwarting development in the African continent while fluctuations in agricultural production due to climate variations, along with inefficient agricultural systems, have been linked to prevailing food insecurity in many countries. Experts have connected poverty to food insecurity.

According to Oxfam the 2016 El-Niño phenomenon, which was super charged by the effects of climate change, has also crippled rain-fed agricultural production and left over 40 million people food insecure in Africa.

“Without urgent action to reduce global emissions, the occurrence of climate shocks and stresses in the Africa region are expected to get much worse,” said Oxfam, a worldwide development organisation based in Oxford.

“None of this is inevitable. What gives us hope is that some of the poorest and lowest emitting countries are now leading the climate fight. We’ve moved from an era of ‘you first’ to ‘follow me’ — it’s time for the rich world to do just that.”

Oxfam has since called for increased, responsible and accountable climate finance from rich countries that support small-scale farmers, especially women to realise their right to food security and climate justice.

“While time is short, there is still a chance of keeping to 1,5 degrees of warming. We must reject any false solution like large scale land based investments that means kicking small-scale farmers off their land to make way for carbon farming and focus instead on stopping our use of fossil fuels, starting with an end to building new coal power stations worldwide,” it said.

A catalogue of climate change impacts in Africa, based on earlier expert projections and reports, already points to urgent need to implement measures that will cushion the vulnerable. For example, in this year, it was projected that Africa would likely have registered its hottest reliable record temperature in Ouargla, northern Algeria, of 51.3C (124.3F).

Oxfam has said there is mounting evidence that higher temperatures linked to climate change have worsened drought and humanitarian disaster in East Africa, including last year’s drought, which left over 13 million people dangerously hungry.

Even at 1,5 degrees of warming, there are fears that climate impacts in West Africa would be devastating while wheat yields could fall by up to 25 percent.

In sub-Saharan Africa 1,5 degrees warming by the 2030s could lead to about 40 percent of present maize cropping areas being no longer suitable for current cultivars, and significant negative impacts on sorghum suitability are projected. Under warming of less than 2 degrees by the 2050s, total crop production could be reduced by 10 percent, said Oxfam.

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