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Durban - More than 90 percent of disaster incidents that occur in KwaZulu-Natal are weather-related and due to the influence of climate change, according to a provincial government official.
And this trend, said Sibongiseni Ngema of the KZN Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta), was expected to increase in coming years.
“The province often experiences extreme weather events (and there has been an) increase in number and severity of disasters in the province,” Ngema said at the iLembe District Municipality Climate Change Summit on Wednesday.
“The disaster situation in the province requires the implementation of disaster risk reduction methods and tools to be intensified to encompass mitigation and adaptation to climate change.”
This twofold increase, he explained, prompted the change in response.
“From region to region, there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach so we have to look at the individual statistics of an area and then respond accordingly.”
Ngema added that the cost of countering disasters in KZN alone in 2011/2012 was R1.2 billion.
Since 2009, the department had spent more than R7bn on climate-related disasters.
From 2004 to 2013, the KZN department has responded to 35 snow-related incidents; 1 241 incidents involving heavy rains; and 3 001 fires (exacerbated by dry, hot conditions). And they expect many more to come.
“We expect to spend much more because there will be many more emergencies to respond to,” Ngema said.
Professor Themba Dube, a senior manager in the South African Weather Service’s climate service department, said that it was unscientific to conclude that a single event was “as a result of climate change”.
“But, looking at trends over 30 years, you can safely say that extreme weather events, such as the expected snowfall in northern KZN, are as a result of climate change.”
He said that people expected areas to warm up because the phrases “global warming” and “climate change” were used interchangeably.
“We are talking here about a disruption of variability in weather patterns.
“This causes changes in weather patterns over certain areas, and causes extreme weather events.”