"Climate change is already happening and Africa is on the front line," said Richard Betts of the Met Office. "The worst effects can still be avoided if greenhouse gas emissions are reduced soon but some further climate change is already locked in. Forward planning to adapt to the shifting patterns of climate will help to minimise the impact by building resilience in communities and businesses alike."

Severe climate impacts are already causing losses of up to 15% of gross domestic product (GDP) in Africa and this figure could multiply in the future, says the "Storm shelter: managing climate risks in Africa" report, which was commissioned by Barclays.

With the exception of South Africa, most African nations have economies that are reliant on rain-fed agriculture, making them particularly vulnerable to climate factors. Agriculture often provides the bulk of employment and contributes significantly to GDP and export earnings.

As well as its impact on agriculture, climate change is likely to affect tourism, infrastructure and power generation. For example, in Kenya in 1998–1999 the bulk of the 16% loss of GDP caused by the La Niña drought was due to hydropower losses and falls in industrial production, with just 15% arising from agriculture.

Planning for this climate change is however hampered by the difficulty in prediction. While climate models generally agree that temperatures in Africa will rise, the projections for rainfall are less clear.

According to the report, understanding of the African climate – eight times lower than the minimum recommended by the World Meteorological Organization. What's more, the continent has some of the lowest levels of published activity in climate science worldwide. In 2002–2004 only 0.3% of lead authors in the Journal of Climate were from Africa while the figure for the International Journal of Climatology was 3%.

The IPCC Fourth Assessment Report in 2007 noted that climate modelling is subject to systematic errors in and around Africa and that it's unclear to what extent current regional models can downscale precipitation over the continent. Regional climate modelling studies for Africa have also tended to be less sophisticated than those undertaken for other areas, such as the U.K. and north-east U.S.

Climate change may also have a greater impact in Africa than other areas because of the continent's existing economic, social and environmental stresses. "Climate change can exacerbate these due to multiplier impacts and create new challenges," says the report. "For example, tropical diseases and poor sanitation are already major concerns, but new disease patterns can occur as more frequent flooding provides fertile breeding conditions for pests and waterborne diseases." This means that there's a need for more integrated analysis of the interactions between these factors.

Each of the economies studied was exposed to climate change impacts in different ways. Ghana, for example, has large cocoa and forestry sectors and two-thirds of its electricity comes from hydropower. Kenya's economy is dependent to a large degree on tea plantations, wildife and coastal tourism. And although South Africa has the continent's most diversified economy it still faces risks to its coastal populations and from water shortage impacts on industry, such as mining and coal-fired power generation.

"Improving climate resilience is possible today," says the report. "At a macroeconomic level, policy initiatives to increase economic development will also help to build climate resilience as economies will become more diversified with increased capacity to invest in risk management and adaptation to climate change."

Link:  http://environmentalresearchweb.org/cws/article/futures/40956