Deputy director-general Dr Tsakani Ngomane urged delegates at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) - a UN body for assessing the science related to climate change - to discuss “climate change adaptation in the developing world”.
She was addressing experts on the first day of the week-long meeting at Durban’s Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre.
She said the IPCC special report, titled SR1.5 and finalised in October, made a clear case for why global temperatures had to be restricted to an increase of 1.5°C.
“A key message of the report is that there are substantial benefits to be achieved in terms of avoiding the climate change impacts if global warming can be restricted to 1.5°C.”
She said that in the regional context, South African interior temperatures were already about 2°C higher than a century ago and were rising at “twice the global rate of temperature increase”.
This was due to systemic anthropogenic-induced climate change (induced by humans), she said.
“Further to the north, over Botswana, temperatures are rising at a rate of about 3°C per century - Botswana is one of the regions with the highest rates of temperature increase in the entire southern hemisphere.”
Ngomane said this had led to crop failure and the death of livestock.
She said the drought in Cape Town from 2015 to 2018 was a stark reminder of regional climate change impacts.
And that while the Mother City had averted so-called “day zero”, when it would run out of water, “a recently published climate change attribution study tells us that the risk for droughts of this magnitude occurring in Cape Town has already increased by a factor of three as a consequence of man-made climate change”.
“I was thus not surprised to note that SR1.5 has identified southern Africa as a climate-change hot spot.
“The report clearly indicates that under 2°C of global warming, substantial increases in heatwaves, high fire-danger days and more frequent drought are likely in southern Africa.
“This will impact agriculture, water security and economic growth.”