Climate Change and its impacts: meeting the challenge in Southern Africa
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Climate Change and its impacts: meeting the challenge in Southern Africa Mary Scholes University of the Witwatersrand ([email protected]). Key Development Challenges (2008-2013). Sustainable food production with the lowest carbon/energy footprint.

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Climate Change and its impacts: meeting the challenge in Southern AfricaMary Scholes University of the Witwatersrand ([email protected])

Key development challenges 2008 2013

Key Development Challenges (2008-2013) Southern Africa

Sustainable food production with the lowest carbon/energy footprint.

Policy driven population occupation of urban and rural spaces (intact and transformed ecosystems)

Increased frequency of outbreaks of pests and pathogens impacting global trade.

Provision of good quality water at a regional scale.

Deteriorating atmospheric air quality.


Contributions to sea level rise
Contributions to sea level rise Southern Africa

For 1961-2003: 1.6 mm/yr:

(Source: Domingues et al., Nature 2008)

  • Thermal expansion (ca. 40 %)

  • Glaciers and ice caps (ca. 35 %)

  • Continental ice sheets (ca. 25 %)

For 2003-2008: 2.5 mm/yr:

(Source: Cazenave et al., GPC 2008)

  • Thermal expansion (ca. 20%)

  • Glaciers and ice caps (ca. 40 %)

  • Continental ice sheets (ca. 40 %)

Source: S. Rahmstorf

Decline in the Efficiency of the Ocean Sink Southern Africa

Credit: N.Metzl, August 2000, oceanographic cruise OISO-5

Primary cause is a 30% decrease

in efficiency of Southern Ocean sink. This is probably due to stronger winds around Antarctica, which enhances ventilation of carbon-rich deep waters.

Stronger winds are due to climate

change and the ozone hole.

Relative sink strength, in fraction of emissions

Le Quéréet al. 2007, Science: Global Carbon Project

Glacier retreat
Glacier retreat Southern Africa


Modelled results,

Confirmed by early

travellers reports

(Fritz 1912)



Southern africa facts next 50 100 years
Southern Africa: Facts (next 50-100 years) Southern Africa

  • Increases in temperature (1.5 - 3.7°C)

  • Rainfall (up to 15% in NE; down by 15% in Central to West)

  • Seasonal rainfall distribution – less winter rainfall

  • Decreases in water quality and increases in water runoff

  • Sea level rise (0.5 – 1.5 m)

  • Increases in extreme events

  • Increases in disease, especially malaria

  • Threats to biodiversity hotspots

Regional synthesis
Regional synthesis Southern Africa

  • Suggests link btw ecosystem service degradation & declining well-being

  • Likely to be two-directional pathway

Empirical warming experiments Southern Africa

(daily mean ~3oC, max ~6oC)

Conophytum sp Southern Africa


(4 months, summer)


Key Messages from the Copenhagen Congress Southern Africa

1. Climatic trends - urgency

2. Social disruption - defining dangerous climate change

3. Long-term strategy - targets and trajectories

4. Equity dimensions - climate change is unfair

5. Inaction is inexcusable - tools and approaches

6. Meeting the challenge - societal transformation (JSE example)

Mitigation and adaptation
Mitigation and Adaptation Southern Africa

  • About 0.6 - 1°C is unavoidable

  • Mitigation – reduce the emissions, in SA this is very difficult

  • Adaptation – will be the way

  • Will time allow? Poor understanding of the limits and the extent of the vulnerability

Role of education
Role of education Southern Africa

  • Much stronger emphasis on multidisciplinary degrees especially across the humanities, science and engineering.

  • Participatory research involving the poor and industries

  • Much stronger tertiary institutional collaboration with shared courses

  • Opportunities for the employment of all postgraduate students across the sectors