Africa faces 'climate risk blind spot' amid weather radar shortage | Climate crisis news

Africa faces 'climate risk blind spot' amid weather radar shortage |  Climate crisis news

The vast swath of the 54-nation continent is relatively unserved and unwarned by a less-developed land-based weather observing network.

The first African climate summit opens on Monday in Kenya to highlight the continent that will suffer the most from climate change while contributing the least.

Significant investment in Africa's adaptation to climate change, including improved forecasting, will be an urgent target at the meeting on 5-6 September. And at the heart of every issue on the agenda, from energy to agriculture, is the lack of data collection that drives critical decisions like when to plant — and when to plant.

The African continent is larger than the area of ​​China, India, and the United States combined. However, Africa only has 37 weather-tracking radar installations – an essential tool alongside satellite data and surface monitoring, according to the World Meteorological Organization's database. Europe has 345 radar installations. North America, 291.

“The continent, in general, is in a blind spot on climate risks,” said Assaf Tzakor, a researcher at the Center for the Study of Existential Risk at the University of Cambridge.

In August, he and his colleagues warned in a commentary for the journal Nature that climate change would cost Africa more than $50 billion annually by 2050. By then, Africa's population is expected to double.

Their comment said the inability to track and predict weather on a large scale impacts key development options. “There is no point investing in smallholder farms, for example, if they will simply be washed away by floods.”

“On the front lines”

UN Secretary-General António Guterres said he will address “two glaring injustices caused by the climate crisis” at the African climate summit.

First, Guterres said that African countries have contributed almost nothing to global warming “yet they are on the front lines of today’s severe storms, droughts and floods.”

Second, while Africa has abundant solar, wind and hydropower as well as important minerals, its governments face high levels of debt and interest rates that hinder investment in renewable energy.

Proper weather forecasting is another area that desperately needs attention.

Kenya, which hosts the climate summit, is one of the few countries in Africa seen as having relatively developed climate services, along with South Africa and Morocco. Kenya has allocated about $12 million this year for meteorological services, according to the National Treasury. In contrast, the US National Weather Service's budget request for fiscal year 2023 was $1.3 billion.

The continent's vast expanse of 54 countries is relatively unserved and unprotected.

“Despite covering one-fifth of the world’s total land area, Africa has the least developed land-based observation network of all continents, and it is in a deteriorating state,” the World Meteorological Organization said in 2019.

In countries like Somalia and Mozambique, which have some of the longest and most vulnerable coastlines on the continent, the lack of effective weather monitoring and early warning systems has contributed to thousands of deaths in disasters such as tropical storms and floods.

After Cyclone Idai struck central Mozambique in 2019, residents said they received little or no warning from authorities. More than 1,000 people were killed, some swept away by floodwaters while their loved ones clung to trees.

The Idai disaster was Africa's costliest, at $1.9 billion, from 1970 to 2019, according to the World Meteorological Organization's report on extreme weather events and economic and personal losses.

The lack of weather data in much of Africa also complicates efforts to link some natural disasters to climate change.

Earlier this year, a group of climate researchers known as World Weather Attribution said in a report that limited data made it impossible to “confidently assess” the role of climate change in floods that killed hundreds of people in and around the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda. Lake Kivu in May.

“We urgently need robust climate data and research in this highly vulnerable region,” their report said.

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