WASHINGTON - The choices that world leaders make on energy at the upcoming Earth Summit will have widespread implications for biodiversity, water supply and food security in Africa, according to a new report from World Wildlife Fund.
The WWF report, entitled Impact of Climate Change on Life in Africa, outlines the extensive effects of climate change on Africa, and highlights that if carbon pollution continues at current rates, people, animals and plants will suffer serious consequences. As natural resources become scarce or disappear, many African communities will suffer the effects of climate change-induced alterations of agriculture, water supply and disease.
At the same time, climate change will exacerbate the already numerous stresses on biodiversity in Africa, possibly even causing some ecosystems to go extinct. Coral reefs off the eastern coast of Africa have already experienced massive bleaching due to climate change, resulting in the death of over 50 percent of the corals in some regions. Damage to coral reef systems has far-reaching implications for fisheries, food security, tourism and marine biodiversity.
"If carbon pollution is left unchecked, climate change will have a pervasive effect on life in Africa. It will threaten the peoples, animals and natural resources that make Africa unique," said Dr. Paul Desanker, Co-Director of the Center for African Development Solutions in Johannesburg and environmental science professor at the University of Virginia in the United States. "World leaders have an opportunity now to help slow climate change and protect Africa by reducing carbon pollution and supporting sustainable land use that promotes conservation."
According to the report, shifts in annual and seasonal rainfall variations due to climate change will impact ecosystems and the migration patterns of some birds, large mammals and nomadic peoples. The prolonged drying trend in the semi-arid region south of the Sahara since the 1970s has demonstrated the vulnerability of nomadic peoples to climate change. The result of this change in climate has been widespread loss of human life and livestock, and substantial changes to the social system. When the more fertile migratory destination is already densely occupied and permanent water points fail at the more arid end, changing the migratory path and destinations is difficult and frequently impossible. Wild animals, birds and plants will face similar difficulties in finding alternate migratory routes and destinations in a world of intense human land use.
The Summit provides an opportunity for governments to make commitments that reduce the carbon pollution that causes climate change by using clean, renewable energy instead of burning dirty fossil fuels. WWF is asking governments to commit to a global new renewable energy target under which 10 percent of energy will come from new renewable energy resources by 2010. The Bush Administration, along with Saudi Arabia, Australia and Canada oppose this target.
"This report shows that without responsible leadership on energy, Africa and its peoples will pay a dramatic cost," said Jennifer Morgan, Director of WWF's Climate Change Program. "Many developing countries are ready to move ahead at the summit in Johannesburg and commit to reducing their carbon pollution through a renewable energy target. The Bush Administration should follow suit."