The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Working Group II report, published in February, recognised the interdependence of climate, ecosystems, biodiversity and human societies and integrates knowledge more strongly across the natural, ecological, social and economic sciences than earlier IPCC assessments.
The assessment of climate change impacts and risks as well as adaptation is set against concurrently unfolding non-climatic global trends such as biodiversity loss, overall unsustainable consumption of natural resources, land and ecosystem degradation, rapid urbanisation, human demographic shifts, social and economic inequalities and a pandemic to name a few.
Africa has contributed among the least to greenhouse gas emissions, yet key development sectors have already experienced widespread losses and damages attributable to climate change, including biodiversity loss, water shortages, reduced food production, loss of lives and reduced economic growth.
The report advised that limiting global warming to 1.5°C is expected to substantially reduce damages to African economies, agriculture, human health, and ecosystems compared to higher levels of global warming.
In Africa, agricultural productivity growth has been reduced by 34% since 1961 due to climate change, more than in any other region. Future warming will negatively affect food systems in Africa by shortening growing seasons and increasing water stress.
Global warming above 2°C will result in multiple bread basket failures with expected yield reductions for staple crops across most of Africa compared to 2005 yields. Under 1.7°C warming (which will be reached before 2050 at current rates) global, reduced fish harvests could leave 1.2–70 million people in Africa vulnerable to nutritional deficiencies.
Exposure of people, assets and infrastructure to climate hazards is increasing in Africa, compounded by rapid urbanisation, infrastructure deficit, and growing population in informal settlements. 2030, 108–116 million people will be exposed to sea level rise in Africa (compared to 54 million in 2000), increasing to 190–245 million by 2060.
Under relatively low population growth scenarios, the sensitive population (people under five or over 64 years old) exposed to heat waves of at least 15 days above 42°C in African cities is projected to increase from around 27 million in 2010 to 360 million by 2100 for 1.8°C global warming and 440 million for 4°C global warming.
The report warns that unless the world provides assistance to African countries to build on climate resilient strategies, millions of Africans will be faced with a difficult road ahead.