To analyze the causes and effects, trends, impacts and challenges of trade-climate change nexus and proposal of alternatives to mitigate them in African countries.
The scientific evidence regarding climate change is compelling. Based on a review of thousands of scientific publications, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has concluded that the warming of the Earth’s climate system is “unequivocal”, and that human activities are “very likely” the cause of this warming. It is estimated that, over the last century, the global average surface temperature has increased by about 0.74° C.
Most worrying is that global greenhouse gas emission levels are still growing, and are projected to continue growing over the coming decades unless there are significant changes to current laws, policies and actions. It is reported that global greenhouse gas emissions have roughly doubled since the beginning of the 1970s and that these emissions will increase by between 25 and 90 per cent in the period from 2000 to 2030.
Over the last half-century greenhouse gas emissions per person in industrialized countries have been around four times higher than emissions per person in developing countries, and even greater for the least-developed. The member countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which are the world’s most industrialized countries, are responsible for an estimated 77 per cent of the total greenhouse gases, which were emitted in the past. The emissions from developing countries, however, are becoming increasingly significant: it is estimated that two-thirds of new emissions to the atmosphere are from non-OECD countries.
Dried sunflowers due to raising temperatures, this has ruined harvesting in many parts of Africa
The result of these increased emissions will be a further rise in temperatures.
As greenhouse gas emissions and temperatures increase, the impacts from climate change are expected to become more widespread and to intensify. For example, even with small increases in average temperature, the type, frequency and intensity of extreme weather – such as hurricanes, typhoons, floods, droughts, and storms – are projected to increase. The distribution of these weather events, however, is expected to vary considerably among regions and countries, and impacts will depend to a large extent on the vulnerability of populations or ecosystems.
Developing countries [especially those in Africa], and particularly the poorest and most marginalized populations within these countries, will generally be both the most adversely affected by the impacts of future climate change and the most vulnerable to its effects, because they are less able to adapt than developed countries and populations. In addition, climate change risks compound the other challenges, which are already faced by these countries, including tackling poverty, improving health care, increasing food security and improving access to sources of energy. For instance, climate change is projected to lead to hundreds of millions of people having limited access to water supplies or facing inadequate water quality, which will, in turn, lead to greater health problems.
Although the impacts of climate change are specific to location and to the level of development, most sectors of the global economy are expected to be affected and these impacts will often have implications for trade. For example, three trade-related areas are considered to be particularly vulnerable to climate change.
Agriculture is considered to be one of the sectors most vulnerable to climate change, and also represents a key sector for international trade. In low-latitude regions, where most developing countries are located, reductions of about 5 to 10 per cent in the yields of major cereal crops are projected even in the case of small temperature increases of around 1° C. Although it is expected that local temperature increases of between 1° C and 3° C would have beneficial impacts on agricultural outputs in mid- to high-latitude regions, warming beyond this range will most likely result in increasingly negative impacts for these regions also. According to some studies, crop yields in some African countries could fall by up to 50 per cent by 2020, with net revenues from crops falling by as much as 90 per cent by 2100. Depending on the location, agriculture will also be prone to water scarcity due to loss of glacial melt water and reduced rainfall or droughts.
Tourism is another industry that may be particularly vulnerable to climate change, for example, through changes in snow cover, coastal degradation and extreme weather. Both the fisheries and forestry sectors also risk being adversely impacted by climate change. Likewise, there are expected to be major impacts on coastal ecosystems, including the disappearance of coral and the loss of marine biodiversity.
Finally, one of the clearest impacts will be on trade infrastructure and routes. The IPCC has identified port facilities, as well as buildings, roads, railways, airports and bridges, as being dangerously at risk of damage from rising sea levels and the increased occurrence of instances of extreme weather, such as flooding and hurricanes. Moreover, it is projected that changes in sea ice, particularly in the Arctic, will lead to the availability of new shipping routes.