Climate Crisis: Why Africa Adapts While America Denies

Africa (TFC)— As destructive, record-breaking climate events manifest worldwide, Africa has been on the front-lines. Both when it comes to the damage left behind and devising ways to adapt. From Nigeria to South Africa, African nations recognize the need for precautions against a turbulent future. These, however, have been lessons learned through great loss.

Natural disaster is no small problem, for any nation. Even in first-world countries hurricanes, floods, and landslides are costly. Not only for government budgets but also human life and local environments as a whole.

Hundreds were killed in Sierra Leone by landslides caused by record rains in 2018. Although rescue operations gathered as many as they could, the true death toll may never be known. Countless more have been killed or displaced by massive floods spanning 2018 across several nations including Rwanda, Kenya, and Uganda. These largely stemmed from record rains which fell following extended periods of drought.

Record heat waves have also been reported across northern Africa. Temperatures have reached such extreme’s as 124 degree’s in Algeria. Increasing food and water insecurity stalk Ethiopia, Somalia, and many others. Officials have also declared natural disasters throughout South Africa due to a massive drought. In Nigeria, officials fear around 20% of their people will experience massive floods in the coming future, Premium Times reports.

These events are also fueling the global migration crisis. According to a fact sheet by the International Organization For Migration, 2015 was a record year for the number of worldwide migrants. That is, people fleeing their homelands in droves.They cross deserts and oceans, often with the expectation of death or capture, because they feel there’s no other options.

Since 2015, we’ve entered a crisis of displaced people unprecedented since WWII. Although armed conflict may be a superficial influence, closer inspection reveals many are fleeing internal instability and lack of resources rooted in a changing climate. Numerous experts and world leaders fear wars over water are on the horizon. According to Newsweek, Goldman Sach’s reps have ominously suggested water will become the new petroleum.

According to All Africa, it’s been predicted Nigeria’s overall productivity will decrease by 10% come 2020. If the trend continues, then by 2050 some 30% of Nigerian agricultural production could diminish. Deforestation and changing weather patterns have contributed to a barren desert-like belt in Nigeria where farming is close to impossible. Shorter rain seasons are also narrowing ideal times for harvest.

While America broadly shutters at the dirty words “climate change”, third-world nations are investing. The ball started rolling under the Obama Administration, particularly following 2015’s United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 21). The meeting determined although Asia, the USA, and Europe pump the most CO2 into the atmosphere, poorer regions like Africa are most impacted. Despite the fact that the entire continent of Africa produces a fraction of CO2 emissions by comparison.

For example, Mother Jones reports, 300 million Americans use the same amount of power for just air conditioning that the entire 1.1 billion people in Africa use for all electrical purposes.

This puts first-world nations in an uncomfortable position of responsibility. Both for contributing to emissions, and helping mitigate damage.

Following the 2015 climate conference, a total of $150 million, Face2FaceAfrica reports, was generated by the US, UK, Canada and Germany to fund an African Risk Capacity Agency (ARC). The agency, an arm of the African Union, was created specifically to prepare Africa for worsening natural disasters. Particular concern was placed on food and water security, already in crisis across the continent. Just recently on May 24th 2018, Nigeria signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to work alongside ARC to assess escalating weather events in the country. Within the last week, it was also announced that 32.1% of the World Bank’s 2018 financing has climate co-benefits, ESI Africa reports.

Aspects like these are vastly impacting business and trade across the continent. It hasn’t stopped merchants from adapting, like South Africa’s Darling Brewery near Cape Town. The brewery has worked to become Africa’s first carbon-neutral brewery. It’s just one of many ways climate-related changes are reshaping the civic landscape throughout Africa.

Rwanda has also shared some international spotlight for climate mitigation. Just like much of the continent, Rwanda faces extreme food and water insecurity due to changing weather. An IIED (International Institute for Environment and Development) analysis found in 2013 that increasing drought and natural disasters could cost Rwanda $300 million a year by 2030. Although long-term predictions were hazy at the time, it was suggested Rwanda would have a warmer climate by 2050. One which would bring more rainfall, and increase the likelihood of flooding and landslides. The price tag to establish any kind of resilience? Well, anywhere from $50-300 million by 2030. Regardless of whether officials can meet the full price tag, Rwanda largely considers adaptation a worthwhile investment.

Africa, like many other less developed regions, exemplifies how seriously the world takes climate impacts. These are a collection of nations without the resources which America, for instance, may have to support research and adaptation. Nevertheless, they’re focusing budget and innovation on this problem. Not because it’s politically viable, but because the reality is—for less developed nations—it’s adapt or die.

In America especially, where consensus over the climate is so split, citizens don’t feel this existential pressure. If worsening weather turns into recurring disasters, many have the luxury of turning a blind eye. Whether imagine or not, many Americans have an innate confidence in their infrastructure and government. It’s a blissful ignorance expressed not just among ordinary citizens, but also throughout the halls of government. Oddly enough, as President Donald Trump’s America loudly broadcasts its ambitions to stifle and pull out of climate agreements, even America’s military prepares itself for intensified future weather.

In Africa, and many other regions, there isn’t the time or resources to debate. These are luxuries only America seems to be able to enjoy. Eventually, this too may run out and America, like Africa or Bangladesh, will have to face the grim realities of a changing planet.