Africa at high­est risk of ma­jor eco­nomic blow from cli­mate threats

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

ROME: Coun­tries most de­pen­dent on agri­cul­ture are also at high risk of ex­pe­ri­enc­ing changes in cli­mate over the next 30 years and face the big­gest costs in deal­ing with the ef­fects of ex­treme weather, ac­cord­ing to a global cli­mate in­dex pub­lished yes­ter­day. Sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa is home to 17 of the 20 coun­tries most eco­nom­i­cally re­liant on agri­cul­ture in the world.

Of the 17, all but two are at “high” or “ex­treme” risk of ex­pe­ri­enc­ing changes in tem­per­a­ture and rain­fall, and ex­tremes such as drought and floods, ac­cord­ing to the Cli­mate Change Ex­po­sure In­dex.

These are typ­i­cally coun­tries whose gov­ern­ments lack the fi­nan­cial or tech­ni­cal re­sources to plan 20 or 30 years in ad­vance, said Richard Hew­ston, prin­ci­pal en­vi­ron­men­tal an­a­lyst at Verisk Maple­croft, a UKbased risk man­age­ment com­pany which com­piled the in­dex. “They’re deal­ing with droughts now, they’re deal­ing with food se­cu­rity is­sues now, they don’t have that ca­pac­ity to be look­ing 30 years down the line,” he told the Thom­son Reuters Foun­da­tion in a tele­phone in­ter­view.

The ma­jor­ity of farm­ers in these coun­tries are small­hold­ers us­ing tra­di­tional farm­ing meth­ods, who do not have the fi­nan­cial safety nets to in­vest in new crops which may im­prove yields in years to come, Hew­ston said. They also lack the tech­nol­ogy which al­lows farm­ers in north­west­ern Europe and North Amer­ica to mon­i­tor tem­per­a­ture and even the chloro­phyll in plants to de­cide when to plant, har­vest or wa­ter their crops. Agri­cul­ture com­prises 31 per­cent of the econ­omy in east Africa and 22 per­cent of the west African econ­omy - both re­gions rated “high risk”, ac­cord­ing to Verisk Maple­croft.

Cen­tral Amer­ica is an­other re­gion where farm­ers are at great risk of the im­pacts of cli­mate change, but these economies are less de­pen­dent on agri­cul­ture. Glob­ally, coun­tries cat­e­gorised as “high” or “ex­treme” risk in the in­dex de­rive on av­er­age 16.7 per­cent of their eco­nomic out­put from agri­cul­ture. This fig­ure is al­most twice that of coun­tries cat­e­go­rized as “medium” or “low” risk (8.9 per­cent).

Coun­tries which are most ex­posed to cli­mate change are also those pro­jected to ex­pe­ri­ence the great­est growth in pop­u­la­tion be­tween 2015 and 2050, Verisk Maple­croft said. This year, for the first time, the in­dex looked at sea­sonal changes in tem­per­a­ture and rain­fall, as well as an­nual changes. — Reuters

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