(File photo) Somerset West in 2013 after the Lourensford River burst its banks. Picture Leon Lestrade
(File photo) Somerset West in 2013 after the Lourensford River burst its banks. Picture Leon Lestrade

How climate change will hit CT - report

By Anel Lewis Time of article published Mar 17, 2015

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Cape Town - Capetonians should brace themselves for less annual rainfall, rising temperatures, more frequent storms and stronger winds, as climate change affects weather patterns in the region.

And, according to a report considered by the city’s energy and climate change committee, these changes are already taking place.

The report, which updated the portfolio committee on the latest scientific findings, noted that the impacts of these changes included increased flooding, reduced water supply, damage to the coast, increased health risks, increased wildfires, a greater risk to food security, increased costs of energy and in-migration from rural areas under pressure from drought or temperature extremes.

“These impacts will increase the disaster risk profile of the city and place stress on the city’s social, ecological and economic systems, with poorer communities and certain sectors being most vulnerable,” said Helen Davies, of the economic, environmental and spatial planning directorate.

“While there is uncertainty with regards to the exact scale and type of impacts Cape Town will face, the city is already being impacted and will definitely be further impacted.”

She added that if the municipality did not consider climate-change related risks in its development proposals, it could be liable for damage that occurred.

Davies said the insurance sector was already refusing to pay out claims for properties damaged in flood plains, as was seen after the Lourensford floods in 2013. “Climate change is clearly not an environmental challenge alone, but a socio-economic challenge.”

The latest report from the international Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) found that the global risk of losing one’s home to a disaster was four times more likely since the 1970s. Climate change is expected to play a large part in this in the next few decades, with rising sea levels and storm surges exacerbating existing threats, said Alfredo Zamudio, director of the IDMC.

Davies said the metro needed to minimise environmental risks and balance short-term needs with long-term sustainability. This would include making some “hard decisions” about developments that could increase environmental risks, and greater effort to use green principles.

“Businesses and local governments need to lead the way in driving climate action in terms of both mitigation and adaptation as they can no longer wait for international agreements.”

Davies warned it would be the poorer communities that would bear the brunt of climate change, with the main service delivery areas affected including water and sanitation, stormwater management, social development, health, spatial planning, electricity and human settlements.

The city has already signed various pacts and agreements with international cities to deal with greenhouse gas emissions and other climate changes.

Davies recommended that two city officials be deployed to the city manager’s office to provide technical support on climate change to all departments.

“Climate change is a socio-economic challenge and therefore needs to have a higher priority within the city – institutionally, strategically and financially. While some capacity exists within the city to address climate change, the capacity for co-ordinating and supporting climate change adaptation is currently lacking.”

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Cape Argus

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