Factoid: The inequality of climate change
Climate change is a doubly unequal phenomenon. First, from a purely geographical perspective, while we are seeing rising average temperatures worldwide, this doesn’t mean that all parts of the world are affected in the same way. Indeed, we now know with certainty that Africa is already suffering and will continue to suffer from a greater rise in temperatures than Europe, for example, despite the fact that most greenhouse gas emissions are produced by developed nations in the Northern Hemisphere. Likewise, we know that some areas will be more adversely affected by the greater frequency and scale of extreme weather events such as hurricanes.
The unequal geographical distribution of climate change-related impacts has also led to a second form of economic and social inequality. Some highly affected countries suffer from weak economic development, making them all the more vulnerable to these impacts, as they do not have the institutional and financial capacities to develop warning systems or to effectively respond to destructive weather events. Moreover, the impacts of climate change will only exacerbate already unequal conditions and poverty factors in these countries, including access to water, food, safe housing and income security, especially agricultural income.
WHAT IS CLIMATE CHANGE ?
Climate refers to all meteorological phenomena characterizing the state of the planet’s atmosphere (temperature, humidity, wind, barometric pressure, etc.) over very long periods of time (decades to thousands of years), unlike meteorology, which concerns very short periods of time (days to months).
Climate change refers to climatic variations observed over decades, primarily by consequential increases in average temperatures on the surface of Earth, but also by warming ocean waters, rising sea levels, and eroding ice sheets (cryosphere).
The causes of climate change are linked to the greenhouse effect, a primarily natural phenomenon where some of sun’s energy remains trapped in the atmosphere, resulting in land temperatures that sustain life on Earth.
The atmosphere is partially composed of greenhouse gases (0.04%), primarily CO2 (carbon dioxide) and methane. These gases trap part of the energy emitted by the sun, resulting in an average planetary temperature of 15°C; the remaining part of the sun’s energy is then sent back into space.
The development of human activity is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions (GHG). Indeed, since the first industrial revolution of 1880, the exponential development of industry, transportation, and agriculture has created an unprecedented increase in greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere.
This increase in the concentration of GHG in the atmosphere has resulted in a larger portion of the sun’s energy remaining trapped in our atmosphere rather than being sent back into space, resulting in rising average temperatures on the planet and disruptions in weather conditions.
Climate change concerns extend beyond the warming of our planet and oceans and the melting of our cryosphere. It has also impacted the quality of our water resources (ocean acidity) and rainfall, and has led to an increase in the frequency and scale of extreme weather events such as hurricanes, floods and droughts.
The impacts of these climatic variations on human activities are multifold: lower agricultural yields, food insecurity, and scarcer water resources (especially drinking water), with ramifications on public health, energy supply (dams) and agricultural production, and the sustainability and viability of our infrastructures.
CLIMATE CHANGE IN AFRICA
Africa is in a paradoxical situation. Although the continent only represents 4% of global greenhouse gas emissions, it is the most affected by climate change. It is also the continent with the fewest resources to deal with the effects of climate change, making it highly vulnerable.
The effects of climate change are already being seen: rising temperatures, extended droughts, floods, etc. And these are only isolated examples. Africa is also suffering from the impacts of climate change, economically and socially. The impacts of climate change are devastating, threatening to plunge millions of people into extreme poverty by 2030, primarily due to lower farming yields, higher food prices, and the negative health effects of climate change. According to the World Bank, a temperature increase of 1.5-2°C by 2030 would lead to a 40-80% reduction in arable land where corn, sorghum and millet are grown. In the years to come, water needed for agriculture will become increasingly scarce. According to the World Bank, by 2020, the total availability of rain and river waters will likely decline by over 10% throughout Africa, where 95% of farming is rain-fed.