As we reflect on 2017, the truly devastating impact of climate change is being felt across the globe. The evidence has never been clearer that the impact of climate change is happening now. The World Bank's “Shockwaves” report estimates that, without major investment, climate change will push as many as an additional 100 million people into poverty by 2030.
The year 2017 was momentous for Somalia, with the inauguration of a new president and parliament following a historic electoral process, and also the launch of a National Development Plan (2017–19). However, the peaceful transition of power was soon followed by the declaration of a “natural disaster” in the form of a prolonged drought that sparked fears of famine. By the end of 2017, 6.2 million people were in need of humanitarian assistance and over 1 million people internally displaced.
The world’s climate is changing, and is projected to continue to do so for the foreseeable future. The impact of climate change will be particularly felt in agriculture, as rising temperatures, changing rainfall patterns, and increased pests and diseases pose new and bigger risks to the global food system. Simply put, climate change will make food security and poverty reduction even more challenging in the future.
A new Country Economic Memorandum gives us a chance to step back and look at the deep drivers of growth since Malawi’s independence in 1964. What stands out, though, is just how far Malawi has fallen behind its peers. It’s easy to look at the seemingly insurmountable challenges the country faces—from droughts and floods to the country’s landlocked status—yet other countries in the region have experienced just as many climate-related disasters, and overcome them better. And throughout the 50 plus years of its independence, Malawi has been fortunate to be at peace and mostly politically stable.
The impact of climate change on hydrology and other natural resources, and on many sectors of African economies—from agriculture to transport, to energy—has been widely researched and discussed. But its effect on marine fisheries, an important economic sector and significant source of food for large numbers of people in Africa, is less well understood.
First, what is known?
Climate change leads to rising sea temperatures, making fish stocks migrate toward colder waters away from equatorial latitudes, and contributing to shrinking fish sizes. It also influences the abundance, migratory patterns, and mortality rates of wild fish stocks.
Dried, mopane worms are traditionally offered to foreigners visiting Zimbabwe as a welcoming snack. Not really worms at all, they are the caterpillars of the Emperor moth (Gonimbrasia belina), hand-picked from mopane trees in the wild, their names “madora” in Shona and “amacimbi” in Ndebele a testament to their local popularity.
I was raised in a small town called Hornsea on England’s east coast, a magnificent place that attracts tourists but is eroding faster than the rest of Europe. Some of the impressive, clay cliffs are literally crumbling. Local roads and the old settlement and have fallen into the sea. More than once, forward-planning residents have demolished and rebuilt their houses from salvaged materials as their coast recedes.
In East Africa and West Africa, about 300 million people living in dryland areas rely on natural, resource-based activities for their livelihood. By 2030, this number could increase to 540 million. At the same time, climate change could result in an expansion of Africa’s drylands by as much as 20%.
Much of West Africa’s population lives along its coastline, where many of its capital cities are located. But though rising seawaters erode it, a study says the “sand river” they create can also protect it.
During my recent trip to Malawi, I saw that the expansion of agriculture, of illegal logging, and of charcoal production are decimating the country’s once-forested hillsides, causing soil to wash into rivers, wetlands, and lakes. This loss of topsoil is reducing crop yields, putting stress on agriculture-dependent communities, and leading to increasingly intense land use.