The extent of climate change resulting from human activities has gone beyond a point of ‘no return’ and the abnormalities, according to a new World Bank report released today.
Experts will find these findings damning but it’s exactly what scientists have been warning of for a long time and the poorest countries, majority of them from Africa, are set to suffer most from this new reality.
“Today’s report confirms what scientists have been saying – past emissions have set an unavoidable course to warming over the next two decades, which will affect the World’s poorest and most vulnerable people the most,” said Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank Group.
The report notes that, as the planet warms further, heat-waves and other weather extremes that used to occur once in hundreds of years, if ever, will become the “new climate normal,” creating a world of increased risks and instability-a scary thing.
And it’s the consequences of this new reality that countries should now brace for and governments across the world to start devising alleviation measures or revise those that are already in place.
The scientific report adds that consequences of the ‘new climate normal’ will be dire forcing a sharp decline in crop yields, water resources, rise in sea-levels and the livelihoods of millions of people will be dramatically put at risk.
Yet even as the report talks of a two-decade time frame, Kim says weather scientists are already seeing record-breaking temperatures occurring more frequently, rainfall increasing in intensity in some places, and drought-prone regions like the Mediterranean becoming even drier.
The damning reality, according to researchers behind the report is that climate change impacts such as extreme heat events may now be unavoidable because the earth’s atmospheric system is locked into warming close to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels by mid-century, the report said.
“Even very ambitious mitigation action taken today will not change this new reality,” says the report.
The only glimmer of hope that the report offers in form of advice is to “turn down the heat and confront the new climate normal’ with scientists explaining that many of the worst projected climate impacts ‘could still be avoided by holding warming below 2°CÂ”.
Case in Rwanda
Dramatic climate changes and weather extremes are already affecting people around the world, damaging crops and coastlines, and putting water security at risk and Rwanda has recorded a fair share of these occurrences.
Efforts to get a comment from Rwanda Environmental Management Authority (REMA) proved to be futile by press time but the body is aware of these new worrying climate change realities and is currently running a national campaign to reduce greenhouse emissions.
Meanwhile, Dr. Omar Munyaneza, Rwanda National Coordinator of Global Water Partnership (GWP) says human activities like poor disposal of waste materials have contributed to the rising of the sea level and that about 480 million people in Africa will face either water scarcity or strain due to climate change by 2025.
Last year, according to the Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs, about 112 people died due to effects of climate change related occurrences such as landslides, floods and lightning.
Another 3,934 houses were demolished mostly by heavy rains, floods and landslides and over 2,201 hectares of land also devastated by the same disasters in various parts of the country.
These are worrying trends, according to the World Bank President who observes that these climate changes make it more difficult to reduce poverty and further jeopardize the livelihoods of millions of people.
“They also have serious consequences for development budgets, and for institutions like the World Bank Group, our investments, support and advice must now also build resilience and help affected populations to adapt,” said Kim.
But these are already realities in Rwanda where, according to government statistics, the estimated total loss of the 2012 wet season flooding, for instance, cost the country Rwf58.3bn which represented about 1.4 per cent of the overall GDP of 2011/2012.
In August this year Dr Rose Mukankomeje, the Director General of REMA made a presentation during a Gender Climate Change and Agriculture Support Programme (GCCASP) workshop whose focus is empowering women, especially those involved in agriculture, by putting in place early warning mechanisms to mitigate climate effects.
Mukankomeje estimated that Rwanda’s medium-term costs to address future climate change will range between $50 million and $300 million per year by 2030.
Edna Kalima, the GCCASP communications expert noted that climate change in Africa has mostly impacted women hence justifying the project’s establishment in Rwanda, especially after a recent survey found that Rwandan women in agriculture were still facing various challenges including lack of information on how to deal with climate change.
“We will be looking at how to empower women, especially those in rural areas, by providing training on weather changes, access to market and doing advocacy in various areas,” she said.
During a-two day training for journalists in climate change and water resource management held in September, in Rubavu district, which is home to Rwanda’s biggest water body, Lake Kivu, Patrick Safari, the regional coordinator of Global Water Partnership Eastern Africa (GWPEA) said there were competing interests on water usage with every sector wanting to use water to serve their own interests.
“There is need for concerted efforts to harness water resources on the continent,” he said.