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Climate change will impede development, warn experts

[Africa] Among the most compelling evidence of the onset of climate change is the impact on the world's glaciers and ice sheet. [Date picture taken: October 2006]
UNEP

Africa needs urgent assistance to adapt to climate change if its people are to thrive in the 21st Century, a senior United Nations official said on Tuesday.

"Response to climate change is interdependent and Africa cannot cope on its own; this makes it the main test of people working together to adapt to the impacts of climate change," said Achim Steiner, Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).

Speaking during the launch of a regional report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) titled: 'Climate Proofing Africa, Key Challenge for the Continent', Steiner said human activities were clearly influencing climate change.

The report predicts that an increase in greenhouse gas emissions will see up to 1.8 million more people in Africa without sufficient clean water, an increase in arid and semi-arid lands, poverty and an increase in pandemics like malaria, cholera and Rift Valley Fever (RVF).

"Temperatures are due to increase by up to 5.8 degrees [Celsius] before the end of the century in arid or semi-arid areas that are prevalent in Africa. The implications of such an increase are multiple and include: rise in sea-level, increased droughts or floods, less access to water which will beget health and agricultural problems," said Anthony Nyong, senior programme specialist with Climate Change Adaptation in Africa, during the launch.

He urged African governments to work together and incorporate climate change issues in their regional policies.

"Regional policies over shared resources must be evaluated and issues of climate change incorporated," Nyong said. "No single country can address these issues on its own and this is where African governments have failed."

Climate change has also seen a marked increase in intensity and frequency of diseases like malaria, according to Andrew Githeka of the Kenya Medical Research Institute.

"Adaptation starts with awareness; like in the Rift Valley Fever example, Kenyan and Tanzanian governments were both aware of the threat but no sufficient risk communication was done. In the end it costs them more," Githeka said.

''No single country can address these issues on its own and this is where African governments have failed''

Adaptation to and coping with climate change is complex and involves social and economic factors, such as education and literacy, as well as financial and technological solutions, the report said.

It recommends that African states think of adaptation through technology, and include it in mainstream development policies. "The report clearly shows that climate change will impede the achievement of millennium development goals and so we must act now," said Steiner.

This is the second report by the IPCC on climate change. The fist one was released in Paris in 2006 and dwelt on the science of climate change.

The IPCC was established in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization and UNEP to assess, on a comprehensive and transparent basis, the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the risk of human-induced climate change, its potential impacts, and options for adaptation and mitigation

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