SA’s growing urban areas a ticking time bomb due to rising temperatures
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DURBAN - South Africa needs to urgently pass the draft Climate Change Bill and implement the National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy.
This is according to the Institute for Security Studies’ African Futures and Innovation which said that with rapidly rising temperatures due to climate change, South Africa’s growing urban areas were a ticking time bomb.
The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) studies on South African cities estimates that the Urban Heat Island effect can increase temperatures by 3°C to 10°C compared with a city’s hinterland.
Senior researcher Alize le Roux said those most at risk were the poor, elderly and young, people living in informal dwellings without proper insulation and ventilation, those reliant on public transport, and communities without access to green spaces and water.
“In the past four decades the International Disaster Database has recorded 196 heat-related disasters. Officially, just 11 fatalities have been attributed to severe heat in South Africa.The worst is yet to come, and the next couple of decades will bring more heat stress as temperatures rise and heat waves increase in magnitude and frequency. Projections show that heat-related deaths among the elderly in South Africa can climb from a baseline of two deaths per 100 000 to as many as 20 to 50 deaths per 100 000 by 2050.”
The building materials used in cities absorb and trap heat, contributing to the potentially deadly Urban Heat Island effect. And while heat waves are less dramatic than hurricanes, floods and wild fires, they pose a significant threat to health and life.
Le Roux said the CSIR research showed that 454 cities and towns primarily located towards the north-west, northern and central highlands faced severe heat stress by 2050. The most significant risk would be in Upington and Kimberley (Northern Cape), Mahikeng (North West), Bloemfontein and Botshabelo (Free State), Lephalale and Musina (Limpopo) and Mbombela (Mpumalanga). In addition to more heat waves and very hot days, these cities were all growing and expanding.
“The building inventory created by Geoterraimage shows that nearly half a million people live in 188 212 informal dwellings within these eight high-risk cities. All of them face a growing but imminent threat of increased morbidity and mortality.
Many of these at-risk cities and municipalities are utterly unprepared.”