Raising a Wind Turbine in Durban

Greenpeace and Tcktcktck volunteers raise a wind turbine on the beach at dawn in Durban, South Africa. To send a message of hope for the latest round of UN climate change talks opening here on Monday. Campaigners say Durban must be a new dawn for the international negotiations to agree a fair, ambitious and legally binding treaty to avert climate chaos. They are demanding that politicians stop listening to the polluting corporations and listen to the people who want an end to our dependence on fossil fuels. Africa is on the front line of dangerous climate change, with millions already suffering the impacts through increased drought and extreme weather events, threatening lives and food security. © Shayne Robinson / Greenpeace

 

As COP17 delegates sit in air-conned conference rooms and discuss climate change over coffee in the Baobab cafe, millions of people across Africa have never heard about the COP, KP, REDD or ’15. They are living with what delegates only talk about: changes in weather patterns causing problems in food availability, water access, and diseases.

Their struggle to survive is what climate change is really about. 

They may not know what is causing the changes in their lives, and they may not be aware that in these two weeks, their fate is being decided. Do the delegates and our leaders feel the sense of urgency linked to their responsibility: being in the position to change the course of climate change? Are they aware of the impact their decisions have on so many lives?

Recently Greenpeace Africa launched a new documentary that captures the face of climate change. “The Weather Gods” is a hard-hitting film that tells the story of communities living on the front lines of changing weather patterns in Mali, Kenya, and South Africa.

The Science Behind the Film

Scientifically speaking, human induced climate change causes a multitude of effects, and those effects vary depending on geography. Although Africa is treated as a single region in the reports of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), in reality it is a huge landmass with many distinct climatic zones ranging from moist tropical equatorial systems through to seasonally arid tropical to sub-tropical climates.

Based on projections like those in the IPCC’s 4th Assessment Report (AR4), it is very likely the continent as a whole will experience higher temperature rises than the global average, becoming warmer and drier. There is a possibility of tropical cyclones becoming more intense and an overall greater variation in climate with more extreme weather events. Overall, it has been estimated that access to surface water resources could be seriously impacted over 25% of the continent.

  • In Mali, models suggest that mean annual temperature will increase by 1.2°C -- 3.6°C by the 2060s and up to 5.9°C by the last decade of the 21st century, with a significant increase in the frequency of hot days and nights. The country is expected to become progressively drier overall, especially in the north, with rain in the south being delivered in fewer days of higher rainfall.
  • Similarly projections for Kenya suggest increases of 1.0°C -- 2.8°C by the 2060s and 1.3°C -- 4.5°C by the 2090s. Rainfall projections are uncertain but suggest an increase by up to 48%, though again with a greater proportion falling during shorter periods of intense rainfall.
  • For South Africa, mean annual temperatures are projected to increase by between 1.1°C-2.4°C by the 2060s and by 1.6°C-4.3°C by the end of the 21st century, with a marked increase in the number of hot days over the whole year.  A small decrease in annual rainfall is projected but with wide variation across the country.

An arid Kenyan landscape featured in The Weather Gods documentary.

 

The effects of climate change on agriculture are expected to vary across the continent, but are likely to be most pronounced in areas where temperature and water availability are already major constraining factors.  Africa is highly dependent on rain-fed agricultural production. Many African crops including wheat, maize, and soybean are already grown close to the limits of their temperature or water stress tolerances.      

The majority Africa’s subsistence farmers are women; they are the ones that will really feel the brunt of changing rainfall and weather patterns. For many African women and girls, the situation will be exacerbated by poor access to education, health and employment.

The pressures on families to migrate to urban areas is also expected to grow further, making the challenge of tackling poverty and unemployment rates an even greater one.

Taking Action

Although climate change is already being felt across the continent, many countries are still not being spurred into action. We are urging the world’s governments represented at COP17 to listen to the people, and not the vested interests of polluting corporations; to shelve the rhetoric and create a framework for a sustainable future, by:

  • Ensuring a peak in global greenhouse gas emissions by 2015
  • Ensuring that the Kyoto Protocol continues and providing a mandate for a comprehensive legally binding instrument
  • Delivering the necessary finance to tackle climate change
  • Setting up a framework for protecting forests in developing countries
  • Ensuring global cooperation on technology and energy finance
  • Ensuring international transparency in assessing and monitoring country commitments and actions.