i initiative

Space and Development…Increasing Access to Space in Africa

Is Africa Under The Weather?

Posted by Simon Adebola on February 3, 2008

The challenge of bringing about change on the African continent has been affected by various compounding factors. The political and leadership situation, poverty, education, healthcare and other socio-economic factors have long been issues of concern. These are worsened by the various wars and resultant humanitarian crises that have ensued over the last four decades. As the continent has progressed through these and kept up its unerring pursuit for peace and relief, seeking to make its way out of the maze, their still remains another major issue threatening to weaken these survival efforts. It is the issue of the effects of global warming and climate change and their impact on African development.

A look at the executive summary of the section on Africa in the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change shows grim forecasts for the continent based on their review of research conducted into the likely impacts of observed trends and the confidence levels of these forecasts. I would like us to consider a brief excerpt from this report and look at how we could use space science and technology in mitigating these potential adverse effects. It must be noted that the application of SST serves Africa well, be it utilized as a pre-emptive or developmental tool, so the aim really is to bring on board the necessary tools for development and not to ‘scare’ people.
– Africa is one of the most vulnerable continents to climate change and climate vulnerability, a situation aggravated by interaction of ‘multiple stresses’, occurring at various levels, and low adaptive capacity (high confidence)
– African farmers have developed several adaptation measures to cope with current climate variability, but such adaptations may not be sufficient for future changes of climate (high confidence)
– Agricultural production and food security (including access to food) in many African countries and regions are likely to be severely compromised by climate change and climate variability (high confidence).
– Climate change will aggravate the water stress currently faced by some countries, while some countries that currently do not experience water stress will become at risk of water stress (very high confidence).
– Changes in a variety of ecosystems are already been detected, particularly in Southern African ecosystems, at a faster rate than anticipated (very high confidence).
– Climate variability and change could result in low-lying lands being inundated, with resultant impacts on coastal settlements (high confidence).
– Human health, already compromised by a range of factors, could be further negatively impacted by climate change and climate variability, e.g., malaria in southern Africa and the East African highlands (high confidence).

With the phenomenal losses being faced by various countries all over the globe as a result of disasters caused by natural hazards and other effects of climate change, the use of earth observation satellites as sources of crucial information at every stage of the disaster management cycle is becoming standard practice. The disaster management cycle, with successive phases of response, recovery, mitigation and preparation, is made more effective by utilizing SST at each phase. Hazards such as floods, droughts, soil erosion, coastal erosion, landslides, earthquakes, fires, oil spills and other geological and climatic hazards could be predicted and effectively monitored with earth observation satellites. The role of remote sensing satellites if maximized would result in the saving of lives and prevent the loss of billions of dollars being annually incurred. Also the role of landscape ecology and landscape epidemiology in the areas of environmental conservation and healthcare has huge potentials in sounding warning signals and also in monitoring the impact of mitigation measures.

An effective response to disaster is greatly dependent on the existence of a sound telecommunications infrastructure. With widely dispersed rural communities, the coverage needed in Africa can best be gotten by telecommunications satellites which would serve as a backbone for dispatching and coordination relief efforts and in educating farmers in rural communities on current adaptation measures and best practice in coping with agricultural challenges. This has been successfully practised in India. The opportunities are numerous but the need to develop these systems and integrate them into ongoing efforts would better prepare the continent to handle the challenges posed by global warming and climate change.

One Response to “Is Africa Under The Weather?”

  1. […] that may be forced on African populations due to environmental change has been touched on in an earlier post. The role that early warning systems can play in shaping this adaptive response has also been […]

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