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Africa climate change

Will Rising Temperatures Derail Africa’s Rise?

Tom Bundervoet's picture

Africa is on the move. After two decades of decline, fortunes reversed by the end of the 1990s, resulting in a decade of strong economic growth and sizable improvements in sanitation, education and health. Real incomes per capita in Sub-Saharan Africa grew by more than 30 percent over the last ten years, and six countries from the continent made it on the list of the ten fastest-growing economies in the world. Big men, although still around in some parts of the continent, have become less common, elections have become more frequent, and many civil wars have finally ended. All this has produced a narrative of “Africa Rising” and a widespread optimism that Africa is finally on the right track. Indeed, the 21st century may well turn out to be Africa’s century.

Or not. Ted Miguel’s keynote address at the annual conference of the Center for the Study of African Economies (CSAE) in Oxford highlighted a potentially important concern. Applying a common statistical framework to a large number of studies on the link between temperatures and human violence, Miguel and his co-authors find a remarkably consistent and strong correlation between exceptionally high temperatures and manifestations of violence. Drawing on detailed data from a variety of countries and studies, they show that exceptionally high temperatures are correlated with significant increases in witch killings (Tanzania), rapes (USA), murders (USA), aggressive behavior of baseball players (USA) and more frequent and more aggressive horn-honking.

Irrigation and climate change

Shanta Devarajan's picture

While attention has, appropriately, been focused on getting food and medicines to the victims of the famine in the Horn of Africa, many observers are asking about longer-term solutions, especially if droughts such as the current one become more frequent with climate change. One possibility is to expand irrigation. 

Currently, only about 4 percent of Sub-Saharan Africa’s arable land is irrigated; the rest is rain-fed, meaning it is susceptible to droughts and floods.  Yet, irrigated land can have yields that are up to five times those of rain-fed areas.  It must be the case that the costs of irrigation—capital, recurrent, administrative, political—are sufficiently high to outweigh these benefits.  But if you take into account the possibility of more frequent floods and droughts, which would make irrigated land relatively more attractive, does the benefit-cost calculation change?

Climate Change as a Development Opportunity

Shanta Devarajan's picture

There is considerable evidence that Africa is the continent that will be hit the first, most and worst by climate change. 

Agricultural productivity, already among the world’s lowest, could in several African countries fall by 50 percent in 10 years because of higher and more variable temperatures, which in turn could lead to faster desertification, rising sea levels, and more frequent droughts, floods and typhoons.