Unit 1- The world at risk: Africa.


Introduction to Africa and its debt crisis.

  • There are 55 countries in Africa. 
  • In 2007 two-thirds of them were among the world's fifty poorest countries. 
  • The average income per capita income was US$0.72 a day. 
  • 34% of the population aged 15-24 was illeterate. 
  • Many African economies are on the edge of collapse through international debt. 
  • Now, they also face the impacts of global warming.
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Evidence for global warming.

  • Africa is steadily warming. 
  • Continent as a whole is 0.5'c warmer than it was in 1900. 
  • However tempretures have increased more in the interior- some inland areas of Arfica have experienced double the global increase. 
  • In Kericho, Kenya maximum tempreures have increased by 3.5'c since 1985. 

This causes difficult conditions across Africa.

- Droughts have become more common as areas which are already arid or semi-adrid become even drier. 

- Rainy seasons are now more unreliable, and overal rainfall is decreasing. 

- Rains are more localised. The rains that ended East Africa's drought in 2005/2006 were not widespread, and many areas had very little rainfall.

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Why is Africa vulnerable?

  • Most African economies are heavily dependant on agriculture. 
  • Farming is rain-fed and vunerable to rainfall shortages. 
  • UNEP (United Nations Enviroment Programe) reported in 2007 that 14 countries in Africa were suffering from water scarcity, and that 11 more countries will join them by 2032. 
  • Rainfall is declining in the area that need it the most- areas with high annual totals are likely to maintain or increase them, but the edge of the Sahara, in the Sahel reigon is likely to see reductions. 

There are two problems. 

- As rainfall becomes more variable, competition for water is likely to arise between countries, particularly when Africa's largest rivers, such as the Nile, cross national borders. 

- As water scarcity increases, so does dependance on poor-quality sources. This can lead to increased water-borne diseases, such as cholera, which puts pressure on health care systems, and therfore on government budgets. 

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Physical impacts of global warming.

Physical impacts. 

  • Africa contains about 20% of all known species of plants, mammals and birds, as well as 17% of amphibians and reptiles.
  • As global warming increases, fragile habitiats may not survive and between 20-50% of spieces in Africa could face extinction. 
  • Many low-lying coastal countries in Africa are vunerable to sea-level rise- with cities, roads and infastructure at risk from flooding and increased erosion. 
  • Already, the low-lying sandy coastlines of Ghana, Togo and Benin are suffering greater erosion from increased storminess and human interferance, such as port development and coastal defences. Other parts of Africa are also affected.
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Human impacts of global warming.

Human impacts of global warming.

  • Changes to rainfall, even increases, can reduce the period in which crops grow. In some parts of Africa, global warming may make rainfall more seasonal, with a dry season that just as dry as now, but a wet season where rain may fall in heavier burts. Only small areas show an increase in crops- the rest of Africa suffers a reduction in food supply. 
  • Malaria is also on the increase as increased humidity and rainfall cause the mosquito to spread over wider areas. In South Africa it is estimated that the area affected by maleria will double, and that an estimated 7.2 million people will be at risk of developing the condition (an increase of 5.2 million.
  • The health system will have to deal with additional casses of the disease as well as additional people being unable to work. 
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Global warming and debt.

  • One of the main reasons Africa is vunverale to global warming is because of it's debt crisis. 
  • For many decades, the debt burden faced by African countries has been severe. 
  • However many countries have had these debts written off by the G8 (the worlds richest countries) in 2005. By mid-2007, 18 countries had their debt written off. 
  • However the burdern of debt still affects the majority of African countries. 
  • One way African countries can reduce their debt is to increase overseas trade, mainly through the use of cash crops. This has led to forest clerance for commercial farming. 
  • Oxfam believes that global warming is likely to result in even greater forest clearance. They argue that harsher weather conditions, such as drought will expose soils to erosion by wind. This will place more pressure on existing land to grow food. 
  • Such pressure (such as over-gazing) often leads to an increase in desertification, famine and malnutrition which will place Africas food security under thread.
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