Unavoidable climate change will cost Africa at least $26 billion a year

By agency reporter
December 2, 2009

Unavoidable climate change will cost Africa at least 1.7 per cent of its GDP by 2040 – US$26.35 billion a year at current rates - and leave millions more people suffering from hunger, diseases, floods and water shortages, a new study warns.

The figure is an estimate of the damage that would be caused even if dramatic international action held the global temperature rise at 1.5C, as demanded by the poorest countries, says the report, The Economic Cost of Climate Change in Africa.

This is the first time that the unavoidable cost of climate change to Africa has been calculated – other studies have examined the costs that would be imposed by temperature increases of more than 1.5C.

Global warming of 1.5C has been ‘locked in’ by historic emissions. The global average temperature has already risen by 0.8C and a further rise of 0.7C is inevitable.

Even this relatively low level of unavoidable warming will leave an additional 12 million people hungry in Africa, damage crop yields, increase the numbers suffering from Malaria and diarrhoea by up to 16 per cent and cause the number of people killed in floods to more than double, according to the new study.

The report warns that if warming is allowed to reach the higher 2C limit that European countries have indicated they are prepared to accept, then the costs to Africa would double. It has been released in Nairobi by the Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA).

Without urgent action to limit climate change, the costs are likely to be significantly worse. Some scientists are now suggesting that the world is likely to face warming of more than 4C by 2100 or sooner.

'The Economic Cost of Climate Change in Africa' says that a rise of 4C would be likely to cost Africa at least $155bn (at current levels) – 10 per cent of its GDP. It would increase the number of people at risk of hunger by 55 million and leave up to 600 million more people than at present affected by water shortages.

The report’s statements about the possible future costs of climate change in Africa are based computer modelling which combines the economic and scientific aspects of climate change in a single analytical framework. This means that it takes account of how climatic changes affect social and economic processes.

"This report shows that the damage rich countries are doing to the global climate is causing real harm in Africa, damage for which they are unwilling to compensate us," says PACJA coordinator Mithika Mwenda. "Even allowing global warming to reach 2C, as many rich countries suggest, will cost Africa severely. Rich countries need to face up to their responsibility and pay their climate debt."

The report suggests that by 2030, Africa will need a minimum of $10 billion a year to help its people try to cope with the effects of climate change, and possibly several times this amount.

Eliot Whittington, Senior Climate Justice Adviser at UK-based international development agency Christian Aid, comments: "This report contains the best estimates yet for the costs of climate change for Africa. African countries are among those that have done the least to contribute to climate change and that will be the most affected."

Whittington continues: "Each person in sub-Saharan Africa emits just half a tonne of carbon per person – whereas in rich countries like the UK we average more than twelve tonnes each. Copenhagen must deliver a fair deal to Africa and this means real effort to cut carbon emissions in rich countries and significant new commitments of money to help Africa deal with the problem."

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