Nairobi, Oct 27 – Increasing temperatures and sea levels, changing precipitation patterns and more extreme weather are threatening human health and safety, food and water security and socio-economic development in Africa, according to a new report devoted exclusively to the continent.

The State of the Climate in Africa 2019 report, a multi-agency publication coordinated by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), provides a snapshot of current and future climate trends and associated impacts on the economy and sensitive sectors like agriculture. It highlights lessons for climate action in Africa and identifies pathways for addressing critical gaps and challenges.

The report, released on October 26, highlights the urgency of climate action in Africa and the current state of capacity. The risks are becoming more severe.

“Climate change is having a growing impact on the African continent, hitting the most vulnerable hardest, and contributing to food insecurity, population displacement and stress on water resources. “In recent months, we have seen devastating floods, an invasion of desert locusts and now face the looming spectre of drought because of a La Niña event. The human and economic toll has been aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.

“Science-based climate information is the foundation of resilience building, a cornerstone of climate change adaptation, as well as an oasis for sustainable livelihoods and development. The State of Climate Report for Africa has, therefore, a critical role to play in this respect, including in informing our actions for achieving the goals of the Africa Agenda 2063,” said H.E. Josefa Leonel Correia Sacko, Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture of the African Union Commission.

Rising temperatures 

The year 2019 was among the three warmest years on record for the continent. That trend is expected to continue. African temperatures in recent decades have been warming at a rate comparable to that of most other continents, and thus somewhat faster than global mean surface temperature. The latest decadal predictions, covering the five-year period from 2020 to 2024, shows continued warming and decreasing rainfall especially over north and southern Africa, and increased rainfall over the Sahel.

Extensive areas of Africa will exceed 2 °C of warming above pre-industrial levels by the last two decades of this century under medium scenarios as reported in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report. Much of Africa has already warmed by more than 1 °C since 1901, with an increase in heatwaves and hot days. A reduction in precipitation is likely over North Africa and the south-western parts of South Africa by the end of the century, according to the IPCC.

Rising sea levels and coastal erosion

There is significant regional variability in sea-level trends around Africa. Sea-level increase reached 5 mm per year in several oceanic areas surrounding the continent and exceeded 5 mm per year in the south-western Indian Ocean from Madagascar eastward towards and beyond Mauritius. This is more than the average global sea-level rise of 3–4 mm per year.

Extreme events

The report documents high-impact events in 2019.  Tropical Cyclone Idai was among the most destructive tropical cyclones ever recorded in the southern hemisphere, resulting in hundreds of casualties and hundreds of thousands of displaced.