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It’s ‘now or never’ to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees

Published Apr 9, 2022

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The UN says that this is proof that the world is on a “fast track” to disaster, UN chief António Guterres has warned, with scientists arguing that it’s “now or never” to limit global warming to 1.5ºC.

So what does the picture look like for Africa? Climate-related health emergencies are on the rise in Africa, accounting for more than half of public health events recorded in the region over the past two decades, a new analysis by the World Health Organization (WHO) shows.

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Climate change threatens the lives and livelihoods of over 100 million people living in extreme poverty. Global warming is expected to melt Africa’s remaining glaciers in the next few decades, and the reduction in water essential to agricultural production will create food insecurity, poverty, and population displacement, writes the Foreign Policy Research Institute.

In sub-Saharan Africa, the gross domestic product (GDP) could be reduced by up to 3% by 2050. Climate activists say that even without the deleterious impact of climate change, global poverty is one of the world’s worst problems. It is estimated that one in three Africans, or over 400 million people, live below the global poverty line, which is defined as less than $1.90 (about R28) a day.

The world’s poorest people are often hungry, have less access to education, have no light at night, and suffer from poor health. On Wednesday, the WHO released a report citing that climate-related health emergencies are on the rise in Africa, accounting for more than half of public health events recorded in the region over the past two decades.

According to the global health authority, natural disasters have also spiked dramatically since 2010, with 70% of all-natural disasters occurring between 2017 and 2021. Floods were the most frequent event, accounting for 33% of all the reported natural disasters.

Africa is also grappling with other significant health impacts linked to climatic shocks, including malnutrition and hunger due to the effects of adverse weather on agricultural production, long-term health and development challenges in children, as well as other infectious diseases such as malaria.

In Africa, climate change is likely to expand the range of malaria high-risk zones, according to a report by the Netherlands-based Global Centre on Adaptation.

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Even though malaria mortality has decreased from 840 000 deaths in 2000 to 602 000 deaths in 2020, the disease remains a major health challenge on the continent, says the WHO.

Reacting to the latest findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the UN secretary-general insisted that unless governments everywhere reassess their energy policies, the world will be uninhabitable.

His comments reflected the IPCC’s insistence that all countries must reduce their fossil fuel use substantially, extend access to electricity, improve energy efficiency and increase the use of alternative fuels, such as hydrogen.

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Unless action is taken soon, some major cities will be underwater, Guterres said in a video message, which also forecasts “unprecedented heat waves, terrifying storms, widespread water shortages and the extinction of a million species of plants and animals”.

According to the report, an increasing share of emissions can be attributed to towns and cities, the report’s authors continued, adding just as worryingly, that emissions reduction clawed back in the last decade or so “have been less than emissions increases, from rising global activity levels in industry, energy supply, transport, agriculture and buildings”.

Striking a more positive note – and insisting that it is still possible to halve emissions by 2030 – the IPCC urged governments to ramp up action to curb emissions.

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The UN body also welcomed the significant decrease in the cost of renewable energy sources since 2010, by as much as 85% for solar and wind energy and batteries.

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