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This week, we received news about the predictable climate conditions in Africa until March 2024. Indications are that Southern African countries of Botswana, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Lesotho. Eswatini and Namibia will experience a dry spell between the months or November 2023 to March 2024. In other words, the region will experience below average rainfall during this period. This is because the recent changes in El Nino Southern Oscillation events have implications for the Southern African climate.
There is no doubt that the climate of southern Africa is becoming warmer, the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases is increasing and the sea level surrounding the continent is rising. The largest part of global warming, by far, is attributed to the measured increases in the concentration of several trace gases, known as greenhouse gases, in the atmosphere. The principal ones are carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O).
Southern Africa is particularly vulnerable to climate change because of its geographical location and socio-economic development state. Southern Africa is an already warm and dry region, projected to become warmer and drier into the future. Warming in the interior of southern Africa is occurring at about twice the global average rate.
In this regard, there is a high likelihood that agricultural production in southern Africa, including staple crops and livestock production will be reduced. Freshwater availability, which is already critically limited in southern Africa, will be reduced in future because of decreasing rainfall and increasing evaporation. These impacts will amplify as the level of global warming increases. Water quality also decreases in a warmer, drier southern Africa, increasing the risk of water-borne diseases. The likelihood of long-duration droughts increases in the future because of the fundamental mechanisms resulting from global warming.
Climate change will also increase the risk of severe storms, including intense tropical cyclones and very intense thunderstorms, increases with climate change in southern Africa. As a result, loss of life, injury and damage to infrastructure also increases. Different species, many occurring only in southern Africa, are at increased risk of premature extinction because of human-caused climate change. This loss has negative consequences for human wellbeing and the economy, as well as weakening the capacity to adapt to climate change.
With soaring temperatures, erratic precipitation, droughts, flooding and many other natural factors, the Okavango Delta will be affected. The Okavango Delta is the economic hub of northwestern Botswana. Climate change will this create changes in market demand, tourist flows and revenue streams.
Climate change is causing the shrinking of the Okavango delta and making it to shift from north to south with some of the channels either drying up or becoming seasonal. Some parts have become dry rendering these areas unsuitable for wildlife to survive or tourism to be undertaken in these areas. The rate at which climate change occurs in the Okavango Delta thus impedes living organisms to adapt to the changes naturally hence some species are threatened by extinction.
The degree of future global warming therefore depends directly on international policy and national actions in terms of greenhouse gas emission reductions (‘climate change mitigation’). As such, policy responses to the effects of climate change include the adoption of Climate Change policies not only in Botswana but globally including Southern Africa. In addition, all stakeholders need to develop adaptive measures to mitigate against climate change. Southern African countries including Botswana should develop adaptation strategies against climate change.