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COUNTDOWN

CO2 Budget Depletion

How does the Arctic affect

Climate Vulnerability
in Africa?

Numerous disasters throughout the African continent, including drought, excessive heat, disease and sea level rise, are amplified by rapid changes in the Arctic region.

The Arctic is warming four times faster than the rest of the world with effects felt globally (Rantananen et al., 2022). Like the Arctic, the African continent is particularly sensitive to warming and is also heating faster than the global average (WMO, 2021). The effects of this rapid warming have pinned Africa as the continent most strongly affected by changes in the climate (African Development Bank Group, 2022). We recently (2023) published an article on how Arctic warming and climate change link to and impacts Africa’s economic development, business growth, and pursuit of the SDGs. You can read it here.

Covering 30.37 million square kilometres, Africa is the only continent to straddle the equator and reach into both the northern and southern temperate zones. While Arctic change is not uniformly responsible for disasters across this expanse, there are numerous factors from the northern pole involved.

The African continent has seven out of the 20 countries identified as the most at risk of climate related disasters (Global Climate Risk Index, 2021). Socio-economic impacts of climate change have a negative impact on people’s livelihoods and wider economies. Read more on our Socio Economic Indicators page. 

As the Arctic snow and ice melts, more of the sun’s energy is absorbed rather than reflected back to space. Thus temperatures around the world rise, as the Arctic is less able to act as the global refrigerator. 

When the Arctic is abnormally warm, as it has been in recent decades, it often leads to a more meandering jet stream. A wavy jet stream can bring lingering hot and dry conditions to the Middle East and northern Africa, yielding, among other consequences, heatwaves, drought and crop failure. Heat is not only associated with drought, however.

For each degree (Celsius) that the planet warms, the atmosphere is able to hold 7% more moisture, leading to more devastating precipitation in areas already experiencing significant seasonal monsoons and stronger cyclones.

Additionally, this added moisture contributes to wet conditions that are favourable for the breeding of disease-carrying pathogens, creating a heightened risk for vector-borne diseases.

Greenland is rapidly losing ice mass, which is the world’s largest contributor to sea level rise. The northern island contains the equivalent of 7.4m of sea level rise, of which at least 27cm is irreversibly committed due to destabilisation of the ice cap (Box et al., 2022).

Regional STORIES

From violence and insecurity, to progress on its SDG targets and food and water insecurity, climate change lies behind many of Nigeria’s most crippling crises. The global climate emergency is also having a profound impact on the nation’s health, as exemplified by recent extreme weather events that contributed to a surge in preventable diseases such as cholera.  

Nigeria typically experiences its annual rainy season from June to September. Last year, significant precipitation led the country to experience the most severe flooding disaster in more than a decade. The 2022 floods impacted an estimated 4.4 million people and resulted in a death toll of more than 660, with more than 2.4 million displaced. They damaged more than 676,000 hectares of farmland, impacting the country’s levels of hunger and malnutrition. More than 19.5 million people in Nigeria were already facing severe food insecurity before the floods. (OCHA, 2022)   

To adapt and prevent a recurrence of last year’s devastation, the Nigerian Government activated its national response plan in July 2023. This action underscored the importance of early warning systems, as it placed several states on alert before another expected round of annual flooding. (AP News, July 2023) 

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) warned that the deadly flooding resulted in a major spike in cholera cases and other preventable diseases in Nigeria last year. In fact, Nigeria recorded over 20,000 cholera cases in 2022, resulting in nearly 500 fatalities. Year after another, the flooding scenario has not changed and continues to exacerbate the occurrence of Cholera cases. More recently, between October and November 2023, Nigeria experienced devastating floods. The floods impacted 29864 individuals, 5189 households and damaged 578 toilets, affecting safety and sanitation. In 2023, more than 3276 Cholera cases had resulted in 102 reported deaths by November (WHO, 2023) 

The Arctic plays a crucial role in regulating the Earth’s climate system, and disruptions in the Arctic can have far-reaching effects globally, including in Nigeria. Arctic warming results in the melting of sea ice, which in turn results into increased global warming. The rising temperatures influence weather patterns, including rainfall variability and extreme events, in different parts of the world, including Nigeria. Additionally, disruptions in the Arctic can influence atmospheric circulation patterns, such as the jet stream, which can affect weather patterns in distant regions. Changes in the jet stream can lead to shifts in rainfall patterns, droughts, or extreme weather events in Nigeria. 

Despite accounting for less than 1% of global emissions, Nigeria is ranked among the bottom 20% of nations prepared to address the impacts of climate change. This country bears the brunt of a global climate emergency for which it is not responsible. The world’s top carbon emitters must take action and support countries like Nigeria before more innocent people die from preventable diseases and suffer the devastating consequences of climate change. 

Read our blog: SDGs On Thin Ice: Arctic Warming and Climate Crisis in Nigeria

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Le choléra est principalement associé à un accès limité à l’eau potable et à de mauvaises conditions d’hygiène. Il est causé par l’ingestion de bactéries présentes dans l’eau ou les aliments contaminés. Cette maladie hautement infectieuse provoque une diarrhée aqueuse aiguë sévère et peut entraîner une maladie grave et la mort. (OMS, 2023). Bien que le choléra soit endémique dans certaines parties de la RDC, la recrudescence actuelle des cas est due à une recrudescence des conflits et des déplacements de population, aggravés par les effets du changement climatique. Dans l’ensemble du pays, il y a eu au moins 31 342 cas de choléra et 230 décès au cours des sept premiers mois de 2023, dont de nombreux enfants. Plus de 8 000 enfants de moins de cinq ans ont contracté la maladie. (UNICEF, 2023) 

La RDC connaît actuellement la pire crise de déplacement en Afrique et l’une des pires au monde, avec plus de 6,3 millions de personnes déplacées à travers le pays. Les camps de déplacés sont surpeuplés et présentent de mauvaises conditions d’hygiène et d’assainissement, avec un accès limité à l’eau potable et aux services de santé. En outre, le changement climatique risque d’aggraver la situation. L’augmentation des précipitations et des inondations, de plus en plus fréquentes en RDC, affecte l’accès à l’eau potable, une ressource essentielle pour lutter contre cette crise sanitaire. La disponibilité de l’eau douce continuera à diminuer au fur et à mesure que la crise climatique se développera en raison de la diminution des précipitations et de l’augmentation de l’évaporation due à la hausse des températures.  En fait, en mai 2023, la province orientale du Sud-Kivu a connu des inondations dévastatrices qui ont fait plus de 400 morts, soulignant le fait que la RDC est déjà confrontée à la colère de la crise climatique. 

Bien que très éloignés, les changements dans l’Arctique affectent la RDC. La perte de glace arctique augmente la quantité de lumière solaire qui est absorbée sous forme de chaleur plutôt que réfléchie, entraînant des augmentations de température au niveau mondial et contribuant à des changements dans le courant-jet. Cela entraîne des effets d’entraînement qui contribuent à des événements météorologiques extrêmes en RDC. Ces influences se traduisent par des conditions extrêmes, telles que des vagues de chaleur intensifiées, des sécheresses prolongées, des inondations et des perturbations importantes dans l’agriculture. À l’heure actuelle, la RDC est classée au cinquième rang des pays les moins bien préparés à faire face aux impacts de l’urgence climatique.   

La convergence des conflits, des déplacements de population et des effets du changement climatique en RDC donne une image saisissante des défis auxquels le pays est confronté. Des efforts urgents et concertés sont nécessaires pour faire face non seulement à la crise immédiate du choléra, mais aussi aux problèmes environnementaux et humanitaires plus larges qui menacent le bien-être de la population et sa résilience face au changement climatique. 

Lisez notre blog: ODDS SUR LA GLACE FINE: RÉCHAUFFEMENT ARCTIQUE ET CRISE CLIMATIQUE EN RÉPUBLIQUE DÉMOCRATIQUE DU CONGO (RDC)

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Cholera is primarily associated with limited access to clean drinking water and poor sanitation and is caused by the ingestion of bacteria found in contaminated water or food. This highly infectious disease leads to severe acute watery diarrhoea and can result in significant illness and death (WHO, 2023). While cholera is endemic in parts of DRC, the current surge in cases was driven by a spike in conflict and displacement, which is worsened by climate change impacts. Across the country, there have been at least 31,342 cholera cases and 230 deaths in the first seven months of 2023, many of them children. More than 8,000 children under the age of five have contracted the disease. (UNICEF, 2023) 

The DRC is currently experiencing the worst displacement crisis in Africa and one of the worst globally, with more than 6.3 million displaced people across the country. Displacement camps are overcrowded and have poor hygiene and sanitation conditions, with limited access to drinking water and health services. Additionally, climate change is likely to worsen the situation. Increased rainfall and flooding, which is becoming more frequent in the DRC, affect access to clean water, an essential resource to combat this health crisis. The availability of freshwater will continue to diminish as the climate crisis develops due to reduced rainfall and increased evaporation from rising temperatures. In fact, in May 2023, the eastern province of South Kivu experienced devastating floods that left a death toll of more than 400, highlighting the fact that the DRC already faces the wrath of the climate crisis.  

Although far away, changes in the Arctic affect the DRC. The loss of Arctic ice increases the amount of sunlight that is absorbed as heat rather than reflected, driving temperature increases globally as well as contributing to changes in the jet stream. This leads to knock-on effects that contribute to extreme weather events in the DRC. These influences result in extreme conditions, such as intensified heatwaves, prolonged droughts, flooding, and significant disruptions in agriculture. At the moment, the DRC is ranked as the fifth least prepared to address the impacts of the climate emergency.  

The convergence of conflict, displacement, and climate change impacts in the DRC paints a stark picture of the challenges facing the nation. Urgent and concerted efforts are needed to address not only the immediate cholera crisis but also the broader environmental and humanitarian issues that threaten the well-being of its people and its resilience in the face of a changing climate. 

Read our blog: SDGs On Thin Ice: Arctic Warming and Climate Crisis in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

As of 2023, countries in the greater Horn of Africa suffered from five consecutive below-average rainy seasons, which aid groups have labelled  ‘the worst drought in 40 years’. The prolonged drought decimated livestock populations and damaged crops, leading to continuously increasing food prices, especially in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia. According to the IPC, the drought left 23.4 million people acutely food insecure and 5.1 million children profoundly malnourished. Even though recent rainfall has eased the effect of drought on crops, many households have lost all their livestock, and agropastoral livelihoods are likely to need at least five years to recover.  

As of July 2023, the drought has resulted in the displacement of 2.7 million people, with the most significant numbers of displaced people recorded in Somalia at 1.7M, followed by Ethiopia (516,000) and Kenya (466,000). A study conducted by a team of international climate scientists with the World Weather Attribution (WWA) states that climate change has made extreme weather events, like the droughts in the greater Horn of Africa, much stronger and 100 times more likely. 

Furthermore, the 2023 drought in Ethiopia has been worsened by consecutive failed rainy seasons, affecting approximately 30 million people, leading to heightened food insecurity and a desperate need for humanitarian aid. According to the World Food Program, 20.1 million people are in need of food assistance and 7.4 million children and women are malnourished. Drought and food insecurity also displaced 3.6 million people within the country.  

Large-scale atmospheric interactions can transmit changes from the Arctic to distant regions. Arctic warming contributes to global climate change, and its effects can reach faraway regions – such as the African continent. However, the climate of this region is peculiar: climate models have predicted that in response to a rising average temperature, parts of eastern Africa will get more precipitation. Yet, the Horn of Africa has been experiencing less– a phenomenon called the ‘eastern African climate paradox.’ Recent studies, such as Baxter et al. (2023), predict this anomaly will continue and that under continued anthropogenic warming, the Horn of Africa is likely to experience further drying. 

Read our blog: SDGs On Thin Ice: Arctic Warming and Climate Crisis in Ethiopia

South Africa, like many other countries, is significantly affected by climate change: a phenomenon driven by various factors, primarily humans’ burning of fossil fuels. The impacts of climate change on South Africa are diverse and wide-ranging, affecting various sectors of the economy as well as the environment and society. 

Climate change drives shifts in precipitation patterns in South Africa. This may exacerbate water scarcity, as decreased rainfall and increased evaporation rates lead to reduced water availability. This presents challenges to agriculture, industry, and households. On the other hand, extreme rainfall events are also becoming more common. Damage from heavy rain can adversely affect crop yields, livestock productivity, and overall food security. These issues also pose risks to nature; being a diverse country, South Africa is home to a huge range of organisms, including over 20,000 plant species. The country’s biodiversity is at risk due to changing rainfall patterns, impacting habitats, species distributions, and ecosystem services. 

The melting of Arctic glaciers, including the Greenland ice sheet, contributes to rising sea levels globally, affecting coastal areas in South Africa. South Africa’s long coastline is also vulnerable to the effects of rising sea levels, including coastal erosion, saltwater intrusion, and increased storm surges. Furthermore, climate change affects human health in South Africa by inducing heat stress and creating conditions conducive to increased disease transmission. For example, May 2023 marked an uptick in malaria in the northeast of the country, as the disease spread beyond its historical endemic range into the province of Gauteng.  

The Arctic drives climate change globally through mechanisms like Arctic amplification, where faster rates of warming in the far north alter global atmospheric and oceanic circulation patterns. Changes in atmospheric circulation influenced by the Arctic can impact weather systems, such as the movement of high and low-pressure systems and jet streams, which can have knock-on effects in the Southern Hemisphere, including in South Africa. 

One reason for the Arctic’s high rate of warming is that it is losing reflectivity due to decreasing Arctic sea ice. As white, reflective sea ice melts, the darker ocean is exposed and more sunlight is absorbed as heat. This accelerates both local Arctic warming and rises in the global average temperature, magnifying climate change impacts around the world. Additionally, feedback mechanisms, such as the release of greenhouse gases from thawing Arctic permafrost, contribute to global greenhouse gas concentrations, further exacerbating climate change.  

To address these challenges, South Africa is taking steps to mitigate and adapt to climate change, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions, implementing renewable energy projects, and developing climate change adaptation strategies. Still, while South Africa represents only 0.7% of the world’s population, it is responsible for almost double that share of global emissions. This is due to the country’s heavy reliance on coal and other fossil fuel sources. International cooperation and support are crucial for South Africa and other vulnerable nations to effectively tackle the impacts of climate change, including those influenced by the Arctic. 

The Arctic acts as a critical regulator of the Earth’s climate, and its vast expanse of ice and snow is crucial in reflecting sunlight to keep the Earth cool. However, human-induced global warming has accelerated melting in the Arctic, increasing darker surfaces that allow more sunlight to be absorbed as heat. Not only does this contribute to rising global average temperatures, but it has resulted in the Arctic warming four times faster than the global average rate in recent decades. This imbalance in warming disrupts atmospheric circulation patterns, which rely on heat differentials. This disruption can then, in turn, cause extreme temperatures and precipitation events far away, including those that affect food security in Kenya.  

After many consecutive years of drought, Kenya is experiencing widespread food insecurity. In the arid and semi-arid parts of the country, an estimated 4.4 million people are facing high levels of acute food insecurity due to ten straight years of below-average rainfall.  

Apart from extended droughts, Kenya has witnessed extreme rainfall and flash floods in recent years. After drought, the dry soil has reduced capacity to absorb water, and flooding becomes more likely. Floods can damage crops and infrastructure, and in severe cases claim lives – 12 Kenyans were killed by floods in March 2023. Furthermore, the negative impacts of climate change are associated with increased violence and instability, and these impacts disproportionately affect women. 

Arctic change also affects Kenya by way of increasing sea levels due to the melting of the Greenland ice sheet, which is one of the largest contributors to sea level rise. Rising seas around Kenya threaten infrastructure in low-lying coastal cities like Mombasa; saltwater intrusion can also taint freshwater aquifers (a body of rock and/or sediment that holds groundwater) and destroy agricultural lands, further impacting food security. 

The situation in Kenya highlights the urgency of scaling up efforts to reduce emissions around the world to slow climate change. However, given that Kenya and many other countries are already experiencing the dire consequences of climate change, adaptation initiatives also need to be mobilised rapidly. Wealthy countries and organisations, the highest historical emitters of greenhouse gases, have been promising vulnerable developing countries and communities upwards of US$100 billion in funding since COP15 in 2009 to combat the effects of the climate crisis.  At COP26, a new initiative was launched to generate $40 billion per year but only about half of the funding materialised.  

Malawi is considered highly vulnerable to climate change due to the climate impacts it experiences, and relatively limited resources to adapt. 

Malawi has a notoriously fragile water system due to its reliance on rivers and inland lakes. In recent decades, the Lake Malawi and Shire River basins have experienced an increase in drought, both from a lack of rainfall and consequential low water levels in rivers and lakes.  With average temperatures projected to increase by 1-3°C by 2050, drier conditions and increased human demand will further threaten water security.  Though overall rainfall may decrease, Malawi will likely be subject to more extreme rainfall events, for example in cyclones. Malawi was battered by record-breaking Cyclone Freddy in February and March 2023, with hundreds dead and thousands of homes destroyed. 

Freddy is also an example of how the changing climate can have devastating impacts on public health in Malawi. The cyclone spurred Malawi’s worst-ever cholera outbreak, as it destroyed sanitary infrastructure and left many people without access to clean water. Heavy rainfall events, higher temperatures, and flooding are actively associated with more cases of diarrhoeal disease. Warming also increases the threat of mosquito-borne illnesses like malaria, dengue, and Zika, as mosquitoes can survive longer and at higher altitudes than before. 

Droughts also have knock on effects on the Malawi’s agriculture and energy production, the latter of which is largely dependent on hydroelectricity. Energy production along the Shire River has experienced up to 66% reductions from its peak performance due to low water levels, resulting in energy rationing across Malawi. 

Warming in the Arctic is a major factor affecting warming on a global scale. Arctic warming is outpacing warming globally by fourfold, and Arctic sea ice has drastically declined. When reflective ice is lost, more sunlight is absorbed as heat by the ocean, which drives a positive feedback loop that accelerates warming in the Arctic and around the world. Not only does the Arctic influence rising temperatures in Malawi, but it also alters precipitation patterns that affect the population locally. Additionally, the warming polar regions increase cyclonic activity off the nearby coasts of Mozambique and Tanzania, which have led to devastating storms extending inland. 

Most of Malawi’s agriculture is rainfed, which means any change in precipitation can have significant impacts on the country’s agricultural sector. With increased temperatures and decreased rainfall projected for the next century, these crops are highly vulnerable to water stress. Adaptation initiatives must urgently be scaled up in Malawi to avoid further negative impacts from climate change. Some Malawians have found success in agroforesty, a technique that integrates trees into traditional agricultural settings to increase resilience to extreme events like floods and droughts.  

Still, wealthier, high-emitting countries that have driven the climate crisis must step up both in reducing emissions and in financing adaptation in Malawi and other climate vulnerable countries. Wealthy countries and organisations have been promising upwards of US$100 billion in funding since COP15 in 2009 to poorer countries to combat the effects of the climate crisis.  At COP26, a new initiative was launched to generate $40 billion per year but only about half of the funding materialised. The following year, a historic Loss and Damages fund was established, but the parameters have yet to be determined. Despite being a low emitter of greenhouse gases, Malawi is suffering the impacts of the climate crisis and international funding is crucial to adapt.  

Uganda, located in East Africa, is significantly affected by climate change and experiencing impacts across different industries. Climate change is driven by multiple factors, including the changing Arctic, which contributes to global change and can have repercussions for Uganda. 

Climate change poses risks to agriculture and food security in Uganda. Increasing temperatures, changes in rainfall patterns, and more frequent extreme weather events like droughts and floods can negatively affect crop yields and livestock health. Water resources are also vulnerable, with changes in rainfall patterns impacting water availability, leading to water scarcity and increased potential for waterborne diseases. Disease transmission is known to increase after flooding as stagnant water offers breeding opportunities for mosquitoes. Reduced water availability can also increase waterborne disease prevalence, as people have no choice but to rely on polluted water sources 

Uganda’s rich biodiversity and ecosystems are threatened by climate change. Shifts in vegetation patterns, altered species distributions, and habitat loss impact the wildlife and the ecosystem services provided to local communities. Rising temperatures contribute to increased heat-related illnesses, while changes in rainfall patterns can increase the prevalence of waterborne diseases. 

The Arctic plays a role in driving climate change globally, which in turn affects Uganda. The Arctic has warmed four times faster than the global average in recent decades. This uneven warming disrupts atmospheric circulation patterns, which are driven by heat differentials. Essentially, changes in heat differentials between the Arctic and lower latitudes lead to disruptions in normal weather patterns. This can produce extreme weather systems and precipitation patterns around the world, including in Uganda.  

In northeastern Uganda, a prolonged drought in 2022 left more than 518,000 people hungry and resulted in the deaths of more than 200 people from starvation. Some regions affected by drought were then hit by floods in August, where at least 24 people died. Because dry ground has a reduced capacity to absorb water, the drought exacerbated flooding. Events like these are becoming more frequent and intense due to climate change. 

Uganda recognises the importance of addressing climate change and has developed strategies and policies to mitigate and adapt to its impacts. Efforts include promoting sustainable agriculture, enhancing water resource management, conserving biodiversity, and improving public health systems. However, international cooperation and support are crucial to effectively cope with the challenges posed by climate change, including those driven by the Arctic. 

Français (scroll down for English)

Sénégal, situé en Afrique de l’Ouest, fait face à divers impacts climatiques ayant des implications considérables pour la société. Ces impacts sont causés par plusieurs facteurs, y compris le rôle de l’Arctique, qui amplifie l’impact du changement climatique à travers le monde, y compris au Sénégal. 

Avec sa capitale Dakar située sur la côte atlantique, le Sénégal est extrêmement vulnérable aux effets de la montée du niveau de la mer, un phénomène largement causé par la fonte des calottes glaciaires de l’Arctique et de l’Antarctique. La hausse du niveau de la mer accroît la vulnérabilité des zones côtières du Sénégal face à l’érosion, à l’inondation et à l’intrusion d’eau salée. Les régions densément peuplées, les zones économiques et les infrastructures essentielles le long de la côte sont confrontées aux conséquences. Les communautés côtières sont exposées au risque de déplacement, et des secteurs cruciaux tels que l’agriculture et la pêche sont menacés. 

L’intrusion d’eau salée, associée aux changements dans les schémas de précipitations, aggrave la pénurie d’eau au Sénégal. Le pays fait face à une disponibilité réduite d’eau douce pour l’irrigation, l’élevage et les besoins domestiques. La position du Sénégal en marge du désert du Sahara fait qu’il est également vulnérable à la désertification, un phénomène par lequel les écosystèmes des terres arides aux abords des déserts perdent leur productivité au fil du temps. La désertification est causée par une boucle de rétroaction positive de facteurs incluant la dégradation des terres, la réduction des précipitations et l’augmentation des températures. Cela a des impacts dévastateurs sur les écosystèmes naturels ainsi que sur l’agriculture, qui ne peut plus être soutenue sur des terres en dégradation rapide. 

L’agriculture est un secteur vital au Sénégal, employant près d’un quart de la population. Les problèmes dans ce secteur peuvent être dévastateurs pour la sécurité alimentaire du pays en raison de la réduction de l’offre alimentaire ainsi que des revenus réduits pour les agriculteurs. En plus de la désertification, les événements météorologiques extrêmes tels que les sécheresses et les inondations deviennent de plus en plus fréquents et intenses en raison du changement climatique. Bien que l’Arctique puisse sembler loin, le réchauffement de l’Arctique est lié à de tels événements à des latitudes inférieures, y compris au Sénégal. La météo est influencée par les schémas de circulation atmosphérique, qui dépendent des différentiels de chaleur et de pression à travers le monde. Étant donné que l’Arctique se réchauffe quatre fois plus rapidement que la moyenne mondiale, ces différentiels sont faussés, ce qui peut entraîner des schémas météorologiques extrêmes et hors saison dans l’hémisphère nord. 

Le changement climatique, en partie causé par l’Arctique, a également des implications pour la santé au Sénégal. L’augmentation des températures contribue aux maladies liées à la chaleur, et les changements dans les schémas de précipitations peuvent accroître la transmission de maladies vectorielles telles que le paludisme, le choléra et la diarrhée. 

Le Sénégal reconnaît l’importance de lutter contre le changement climatique et a mis en place des initiatives pour atténuer et s’adapter à ses impacts. Une de ces initiatives est la “Grande Muraille Verte“, une collaboration entre les nations africaines pour lutter contre la désertification en plantant des arbres le long du bord du désert du Sahara. Comparées aux sols stériles, les terres couvertes d’arbres peuvent stocker plus d’eau et sont moins sujettes à l’érosion. De plus, les arbres absorbent le carbone de l’atmosphère et l’utilisent pour croître, réduisant ainsi l’effet de serre à l’échelle mondiale. 

English

Senegal, located in West Africa, faces diverse climate impacts with wide-ranging implications for society. These impacts are driven by multiple factors, including the role of the Arctic, which magnifies the impact of climate change around the world. 

With the capital city of Dakar situated on the Atlantic coast, Senegal is highly vulnerable to the effects of sea level rise, a phenomenon largely driven by melting from Arctic and Antarctic ice sheets. Rising sea levels increase the vulnerability of Senegal’s coastal areas to erosion, inundation, and saltwater intrusion. Densely populated regions, economic zones, and critical infrastructure along the coast face the consequences. Coastal communities are at risk of displacement, and crucial sectors such as agriculture and fisheries are threatened. 

Saltwater intrusion, along with changing rainfall patterns, exacerbates water scarcity in Senegal. The country is facing reduced availability of freshwater for irrigation, livestock, and domestic use. Senegal’s position on the margins of the Sahara Desert means that it is also vulnerable to desertification, a phenomenon by which dryland ecosystems on the fringes of deserts lose productivity over time. Desertification is driven by a positive feedback loop of factors including land degradation, reduced precipitation, and increasing temperatures. This has devastating impacts on natural ecosystems as well as agriculture, which can no longer be sustained on rapidly degrading lands. 

Agriculture is a vital sector in Senegal, employing almost a quarter of the population. Problems in this sector can be devastating for the nation’s food security status because of reduced food supply as well as reduced income for farmers. In addition to desertification, extreme weather events like droughts and floods are becoming more frequent and intense due to climate change. While the Arctic may seem far away, warming in the Arctic is linked to such events at lower latitudes, including in Senegal. Weather is influenced by atmospheric circulation patterns, which depend on heat and pressure differentials around the globe. Because the Arctic is warming four times faster than the global average, these differentials are skewed, which can result in extreme and unseasonable weather patterns across the Northern hemisphere.  

Climate change, driven in part by the Arctic, also has health implications in Senegal. Increasing temperatures contribute to heat-related illnesses, and changes in rainfall patterns may increase the transmission of vector-borne diseases such as malaria, cholera, and diarrhea. 

Senegal recognizes the importance of addressing climate change and has implemented initiatives to mitigate and adapt to its impacts. One such initiative is the ‘Great Green Wall’, a collaboration between African nations to combat desertification by planting trees along the edge of the Sahara Desert. Compared to barren soil, land covered with trees can store more water and is less prone to erosion. As a bonus, the trees remove carbon from the atmosphere and use it to grow, thereby reducing the greenhouse effect around the world.  

 

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In May 2023 the eastern province of South Kivu experienced devastating floods, described as feeling “like the end of the world”, highlighting the fact that the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is already in the wrath of the climate crisis. Notably, the country is ranked as the fifth least prepared for the impacts of the crisis. The country is vulnerable to climate change in several ways, including: 

  1. Increasing temperatures and changing precipitation patterns: Climate change is leading to an increase in temperatures around the world. The loss of Arctic ice increases the amount of sunlight that is absorbed as heat rather than reflected, driving temperature increases globally. Warmer temperaturesare linked to changes in global precipitation patterns, including in the DRC. These impacts can lead to reduced freshwater availability, ultimately hindering crop yields through a combination of heat and water stress. This has significant impacts on the agricultural sector, which employs the majority of the population in DRC. 
  2. Deforestation and land degradation: Deforestation is a significant problem in the DRC, and climate change will continue to exacerbate the issue as crop failures drive people to pursue alternate economies,such as timber. Deforestation can lead to soil erosion, loss of biodiversity, and reduced carbon storage, all of which contribute to further climate change.
  3. Flooding and landslides: Extreme weather events, such as flooding and landslides, are becoming more frequent and severe due to climate change and land degradation. Recent flooding in South Kivu province has left more than 400 people dead as of 8 May 2023.
  4. Water scarcity: Freshwater scarcity is already a major issue in the DRC, and will continue to worsen as the climate crisis develops. Reduced rainfall and increased evaporation due to rising temperatures will lead to decreased freshwater availability.
  5. Health impacts: Climate change is likely to increase the incidence of vector-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever, which are already significant public health concerns in the DRC. Many such diseases are transmitted at higher rates at warmer temperatures. Furthermore, when water is scarce, people are more likely to turn to unclean water sources, which further facilitates the transmission of water-borne diarrheal diseases.

Overall, these impacts are poised to have significant social, economic, and environmental consequences for the DRC, and highlight the urgent need to address the climate crisis on a global scale. 

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En mai 2023, la province orientale de South Kivu a connu des inondations dévastatrices, décrites comme ayant ressenti “comme la fin du monde”, soulignant que la RD Congo est déjà sous les effets de la crise climatique. Notamment, le pays est classé le cinquième pays moins préparé aux impacts de la crise. Le pays est vulnérable au changement climatique de plusieurs façons, notamment: 

  1. Augmentation des températures et changement de la configuracion desprécipitations: le changement climatique entraîne une augmentation des températures dans le monde entier. La perte de glace dans l’Arctique augmente la quantité de lumière solaire qui est absorbée comme chaleur plutôt que réfléchie, ce qui entraîne des augmentations de température à l’échelle mondiale. Les températures plus chaudes sont liées à des changements dans la configuracion des précipitations mondiaux, la RD Congo compris. Ces impacts peuvent entraîner une diminution de la disponibilité en eau douce, entravant finalement les mauvaises récoltes par une combinaison de stress thermique et hydrique. Cela a des impacts importants sur le secteur agricole, qui emploie la majorité de la population en la RD Congo.
  2. Déforestation et dégradation des terres: la déforestation est un problème important en la RD Congo et le changement climatique va continuer à l’exacerber alors que les mauvaises récoltespoussent les gens à poursuivre des sources alternatives des revenus, comme le bois. La déforestation peut entraîner l’érosion des sols, la perte de biodiversité et la réduction du stockage de carbone, ce qui contribue à davantage de changements climatiques.
  3. Inondations et glissements de terrain: les événements météorologiques extrêmes, tels que les inondations et les glissements de terrain, deviennent plus fréquents et plus graves en raison du changement climatique et de la dégradation des terres. Les inondations récentes dans la province de South Kivu ont fait plus de 400 morts au 8 mai 2023.
  4. Pénurie d’eau: la pénurie d’eau douce est déjà un problème en la RD Congo et continuera à s’aggraver tandis que la crise climatique se développe. La diminution des précipitations et l’augmentation de l’évaporation due à la hausse des températures entraîneront une diminution de la disponibilité en eau douce.
  5. Impacts sur la santé: le changement climatique devrait augmenter l’incidence de maladies vectorielles telles que le paludisme et la dengue, qui sont déjà des problèmes de santé publique importants en la RD Congo. Beaucoup de ces maladies sont transmises à des taux plus élevés à des températures plus chaudes. De plus, lorsque l’eau est rare, les gens sont plus susceptibles de se tourner vers des sources d’eau insalubres, ce qui facilite la transmission de maladies diarrhéiques d’origine hydrique.

En somme, ces impacts sont susceptibles d’avoir des conséquences sociales, économiques et environnementales pour la RD Congo, soulignant le besoin urgent de s’attaquer à la crise climatique à l’échelle mondiale. 

Approximately 1.4 million people within 15 Western and Central African countries were affected by flooding in 2021 while 2.7 million people were affected in 2020 within the same region (OCHA, 2021). The 2021 floods displaced about 400,000 people in 12 countries with about 300 fatalities. As expected, these floods highlight pre-existing vulnerabilities within the affected countries.

The countries most impacted in 2021 includes Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria and Niger. Apart from human fatalities, flooding also has food security implications. Floods inundate crop fields, pastures and livestock reducing crop and animal yields. Floods affect food availability, access, utility and stability, amplifying food insecurity concerns. In Niger, during the 2021 rainy season, flash floods caused by torrential rains led to 7,000 hectares of cultivable land being destroyed, and 10,000 livestock dying, similarly, flash floods have destroyed more than 6,000 hectares of crops in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2021 (OCHA, 2021).

Global warming, exacerbated by the melting Arctic, is leading to economic losses around the world. By 2050, Ghana’s GDP is expected to be 24.3% below 2020 levels (Oxford Economics, 2022). These losses stem from a decrease in productivity, reductions in agriculture, and increased health costs, among other factors.

Concerning rising health costs, this warming may make conditions more favourable for vector- and water-borne pathogens (Ryan et al., 2020), which are significant causes of death in subtropical Africa (World Health Organization, 2022). Financial investments in malaria eradication increased from less than US$25 million in 2006 to over US$100 million by 2011. Nonetheless, to eliminate malaria – during the current decade in Ghana – a further US$961 million is needed (Shretta et al., 2020).

Eliminating malaria is expected to come with US$32 billion in economic gain, through reduced healthcare needs and increased productivity (Ibid.).

Ghana, like other African nations, is largely responsible for generating these funds. Western countries have routinely made financial pledges, such as promising US$25 billion specifically to assist the entire continent with climate adaptations, yet only US$55 million has actually materialised (Aljazeera, 2022).

Currently, there are three glaciated mountains in Africa (WMO, 2021). These include Mount Kenya, the Rwenzori Mountains and Mount Kilimanjaro.

The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) observes that the current recession rates of the glaciers on these mountains are higher than the global average and further projects that should the recession continue at current rates, total deglaciation would occur by the 2040s (WMO, 2021).

These retreating glaciers may also alter the weather pattern in the region. Temperatures have continued to rise, as the ice has melted.

These mountains and glaciers are of eminent touristic importance bringing in much needed revenue to Eastern African economies such as Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, as such the economic impact of glacial loss on the local population could be severe (Science, 2006).

The impact of drought on agricultural yields in North Africa particularly, towards the end of the recent November to July wheat growing season cannot be overemphasised.

Cereals in North Africa are sowed or planted beginning in October. The planting season ends in January. The wide planting window is attributable to the variability in the moisture content of the soil from the autumn rains. By March to April, the crops flower and mature in April and May. Harvesting of the grains starts May in parts of Morocco and continues into June and early July in Algeria and Tunisia (Foreign Agricultural Service of the US Department of Agriculture, 2022).

An assessment conducted in May 2022 suggests wheat and barley yields of less than 50% of the 5-year average in Morocco, and 20% below the 5-year average in Algeria (EU Science Hub, 2022). These reductions in yields are largely attributed to poor rainfall.

Food security in the MENA region is already fragile. The region is highly dependent on food imports, as the agricultural sector cannot produce enough to meet domestic demand. According to the 2022 FAO Crop Prospects and Food Situation Report, 500 000 people in Libya (about 7% of the population) need food assistance (FAO, 2022).

 

“The Nile Delta is one of the three most vulnerable areas to the sea level rise threat in the world” (Solynem & Monan, 2020).

The Mediterranean city of Alexandria with a population of more than 5 million people and a UNESCO World Heritage site faces rising risks from flooding and erosion caused by the rising sea level (Hemeda, 2021).

Other Egyptian cities at risk of rising sea levels include Port Said, Damietta, and Rosetta. Some of these cities have been hosting emergency archaeological digs to spare Nubian artefacts  from places like ​​Abu Simbel (UNESCO, n.d.).

Rising sea levels also result in saltwater intrusions contaminating freshwater sources and aquifers. Seawater intrusion in Egypt has been documented along the northwestern coast and in the Sinai Peninsula (Eissa, de Dreuzy and Parker, 2018).

Encroaching water is threatening to make Egypt uninhabitable by 2100 and risking country-wide fresh water shortages by 2025 (Stanley and Clemente, 2017).

Starvation is looming in some communities in East Africa due to the ongoing four-season droughts. Rainfall within the last four seasons has been very low impacting agricultural yields in these parts of the continent.

The October-December 2020, March-May 2021, October-December 2021 and March-May 2022 seasons were all marred by below-average rainfall (OCHA, 2022).

This has heavily impacted rain fed agriculture in large parts of Somalia, Ethiopia, and Kenya. The rainy season between March-May 2022 season is predicted to be the driest on record within the Horn of Africa (OCHA, 2022).

Uganda, located in East Africa, is significantly affected by climate change and experiencing impacts across different industries. Climate change is driven by multiple factors, including the changing Arctic, which contributes to global change and can have repercussions for Uganda. 

Climate change poses risks to agriculture and food security in Uganda. Increasing temperatures, changes in rainfall patterns, and more frequent extreme weather events like droughts and floods can negatively affect crop yields and livestock health. Water resources are also vulnerable, with changes in rainfall patterns impacting water availability, leading to water scarcity and increased potential for waterborne diseases. Transmission of waterborne disease is known to increase after flooding as well as in times of reduced water availability when people have no choice but to rely on polluted water sources 

Uganda’s rich biodiversity and ecosystems are threatened by climate change. Shifts in vegetation patterns, altered species distributions, and habitat loss impact the wildlife and the ecosystem services provided to local communities. Rising temperatures contribute to increased heat-related illnesses, while changes in rainfall patterns can increase the prevalence of waterborne diseases. 

The Arctic plays a role in driving climate change globally, which in turn affects Uganda. Arctic amplification and shifts in atmospheric circulation patterns can influence weather systems and precipitation patterns around the world, including in Uganda. Teleconnections, or large-scale atmospheric interactions, can transmit changes from the Arctic to distant regions, potentially affecting Uganda’s rainfall patterns and temperature regimes. 

In northeastern Uganda, a prolonged drought in 2022 left more than 518,000 people hungry and resulted in the deaths of more than 200 people from starvation. Some regions affected by drought were then hit by floods in August, where at least 24 people died. Because dry ground has a reduced capacity to absorb water, the drought exacerbated flooding.  

Uganda recognizes the importance of addressing climate change and has developed strategies and policies to mitigate and adapt to its impacts. Efforts include promoting sustainable agriculture, enhancing water resource management, conserving biodiversity, and improving public health systems. However, international cooperation and support are crucial to effectively cope with the challenges posed by climate change, including those driven by the Arctic. 

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ARCTIC RISK INDICATORS

The following gauges show up-to-date data regarding key indicators in the Arctic. These indicators clearly point to the crisis at hand.

Greenland rate of ice loss
13 million l/s
on average
13 million tonnes/s
on average
Arctic Sea Ice Extent
532,000 km²
below 1981-2010 average on 17-Apr-2024
205,405 mi²
below 1981-2010 average on 17-Apr-2024
Arctic Amplification
4 times
faster than global average
Arctic 66N+ Wildfire emissions
-0.00 megatonnes CO₂e
CO₂e emissions in 2024 so far
Arctic Air Quality (PM2.5)
3.27 microgram per cubic meter
on 18-Apr-2024
Global mean Sea Level
3.4mm/year
since 1993