Changing precipitation patterns, rising temperatures and more extreme weather contributed to mounting food insecurity, poverty and displacement in Africa in 2020, compounding the socio-economic and health crisis triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new multi-agency report coordinated by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
The State of the Climate in Africa 2020 report provides a snapshot of climate change trends and impacts, including sea level rise and the melting of the continent’s iconic glaciers.
“During 2020, the climate indicators in Africa were characterized by continued warming temperatures, accelerating sea-level rise, extreme weather and climate events, such as floods, landslides and droughts, and associated devastating impacts. The rapid shrinking of the last remaining glaciers in eastern Africa, which are expected to melt entirely in the near future, signals the threat of imminent and irreversible change to the Earth system, ” said WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas.
The report adds to the scientific evidence about the urgency to cut global greenhouse gas emissions, step up the level of climate ambition and increase financing for adaptation.
«Africa is witnessing increased weather and climate variability, which leads to disasters and disruption of economic, ecological and social systems. By 2030, it is estimated that up to 118 million extremely poor people (i.e. living on less than US$ 1.90/day) will be exposed to drought, floods and extreme heat in Africa, if adequate response measures are not put in place. This will place additional burdens on poverty alleviation efforts and significantly hamper growth in prosperity, » said H.E. Josefa Leonel Correia Sacko Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture African Union Commission.
« In sub-Saharan Africa, climate change could further lower gross domestic product (GDP) by up to 3% by 2050. This presents a serious challenge for climate adaptation and resilience actions because not only are physical conditions getting worse, but also the number of people being affected is increasing, » she said in the foreword.
Temperatures: Africa has warmed faster than the global average temperature over land and ocean combined. 2020 ranked between the third and eighth warmest year on record for Africa, depending on the dataset used.
Glaciers: Presently, only three mountains in Africa are covered by glaciers – the Mount Kenya, the Rwenzori Mountains and Mount Kilimanjaro.
Although these glaciers are too small to act as significant water reservoirs, they are of eminent touristic and scientific importance. Their current retreat rates are higher than the global average. If this continues, it will lead to total deglaciation by the 2040s. Mount Kenya is expected to be deglaciated a decade sooner, which will make it one of the first entire mountain ranges to lose glaciers due to human-induced climate change.
Precipitation: Higher-than-normal precipitation – accompanied by flooding – predominated in the Sahel, the Rift Valley, the central Nile catchment and north-eastern Africa, the Kalahari basin and the lower course of the Congo River.
Dry conditions prevailed in the northern coast of the Gulf of Guinea and in north-western Africa and along the south-eastern part of the continent. The drought in Madagascar triggered a humanitarian crisis.
High impact events: There was extensive flooding across many parts of East Africa. Countries reporting loss of life or significant displacement of populations included the Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Uganda, Chad, Nigeria (which also experienced drought in the southern part), Niger, Benin, Togo, Senegal, Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon and Burkina Faso. Many lakes and rivers reached record high levels, including Lake Victoria (in May) and the Niger River at Niamey and the Blue Nile at Khartoum (in September).
Food insecurity: The compounded effects of protracted conflicts, political instability, climate variability, pest outbreaks and economic crises, exacerbated by the impacts of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, were the key drivers of a significant increase in food insecurity.
A desert locust invasion of historic proportions, which began in 2019, continued to have a major impact in East and the Horn of Africa in 2020.
Food insecurity increases by 5–20 percentage points with each flood or drought in sub-Saharan Africa.In 2020, there was an almost 40% increase in population affected by food insecurity compared with the previous year.
Displacement: An estimated 12% of all new population displacements worldwide occurred in the East and Horn of Africa region, with over 1.2 million new disaster-related displacements and almost 500 000 new conflict-related displacements. Floods and storms contributed the most to internal disaster-related displacement, followed by droughts.