Climate Change Mitigation and South Africa

The climate of South Africa is analyzed for trends and variability using observations and IPCC-validated model-simulations up to 2050 as greenhouse gases rise. South Africa has been warming significantly over the period 1931-2015. Results show that air temperatures have increased by 0.02°C/yr and may warm more quickly by 0.03°C/yr in future.

The South Atlantic anticyclone is moving poleward and causing more southeasterly winds, so the pre-existing moist-east/dry-west weather pattern is accentuated. Observed rainfall shows little overall trend except near Cape Town where drier conditions correspond with enhanced coastal upwelling. Model projections for rainfall up to 2050 are slightly downward, except in the eastern coastal plains. Cycles of drought and flood that affect water resources are expected to continue and may overshadow the gradual effects of climate change.

The initial National Communication in accordance with Article 12 of the United Nations Framework Convention on climate Change (UNFCCC) was prepared in 2004, followed by the second communication in 2011. This document constitutes South Africa’s Third National Communication (TNC). The document follows suggested UNFCCC guidelines for developing countries in reporting on national circumstances; a national Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Inventory; climate change over South Africa in terms of trends and projected changes, vulnerability assessments and national adaptation strategies; measures to mitigate climate change; and other information relevant to the Convention (including a technology needs assessment, research and systematic observations and climate change education, training, awareness and capacity building needs).

South Africa is undertaking significant actions to respond to climate change risks and impacts. The Climate Change Annual Report reflects on the progress in undertaking these actions with the aim of recognising ongoing actions, quantifying their impact, catalysing new actions and indicating how these actions contribute to the national imperatives of reducing poverty and inequality, and achieving continued economic growth.

South Africa’s climate change response is directed primarily by the country’s climate change policy set out in the The National Climate Change Response White Paper (NCCRWP) . The NCCRWP together with the NDP addresses the immediate and observed threats of climate change to the country’s society, economy and environment and provide the basis for tracking South Africa’s transition to a climate resilient society and lower carbon economy.

Climate change in South Africa is leading to increased temperatures and rainfall variability. Evidence shows that extreme weather events are becoming more prominent due to climate change. This is a critical concern for South Africans as climate change will affect the overall status and wellbeing of the country, for example with regards to water resources. Just like many other parts of the world, climate research showed that the real challenge in South Africa was more related to environmental issues more than developmental ones.The most severe effect will be targeting the water supply, which has huge effects on the agriculture sector. Speedy environmental changes are resulting clear effects on the community and environmental level in different ways and aspects, starting with air quality, to temperature and weather patterns, reaching out to food security and disease burden.

The various effects of climate change on rural communities are expected to include: drought, depletion of water resources and biodiversity, soil erosion, decreased subsistence economies and cessation of cultural activities.

There has been different confirmations over climate change effects in South Africa with a rapid decrease in rain fall and noticed high temperature levels. Climate change is expected to raise temperatures in South Africa by 2-3°C by mid-century, and 3-4°C by the end of the century in an intermediate scenario. Impacts will also include changing rain patterns and increased evaporation, increasing the likelihood of extreme droughts.

Africa is currently and prospectively suffering from significant heat waves based on the nature of the continent amid the current environmental crisis. Popular awareness of these potential impacts increased with the 2018–20 Southern Africa drought and subsequent Cape Town water crisis

The South African government has committed to a peak of CO2 emissions between 2020 and 2025 and has agreed to working with other signatories of the Paris Agreement to keep temperature increases below 2°C. However, independent observers have called the current actions by the government insufficient. In part, this failure to act is related to the government ownership of Eskom, which is responsible for much of the coal operation in the country. Similarly, the economy is one of the most energy-intensive in the world although it has not been setting mitigation targets for industry. Catalysing finance and investment to transition to a low carbon economy and society is a major challenge for South Africa.

Like all countries which are party to the Paris Agreement South Africa will report its greenhouse gas inventory to the UNFCCC at least biennially from 2024 at the latest.

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