LatestClimate change makes heatwaves in Africa ten times more likely: study

Climate change makes heatwaves in Africa ten times more likely: study

Humid heatwaves typically occur in March or April in southern West Africa; however, in 2024, they arrive in February. According to a March 22, 2024, investigation by a global team of top climate scientists from the World Weather Attribution group, the humid heatwaves that occurred in southern West Africa in February would have been “impossible” without human-induced climate change.

According to the heat index, the researchers discovered that the heatwave was around 4°C hotter due to climate change. Because increased humidity makes it more difficult for people to cool down, the heat index, also known as apparent temperature, is a measurement that combines temperature and humidity to represent how heat feels to the human body.

In West Africa, the average air temperature was higher than 36°C, but over the same period, the heat index was roughly 50°C. Dangerous conditions resulted from the combination of high temperatures and humidity.

With temperatures reaching 60°C, the heat index even reached the level of “extreme danger,” which is linked to a high risk of heat stroke, according to the analysis, which involved scientists from the United States, the Netherlands, Germany, South Africa, Burkina Faso, Switzerland, and Sweden.

Based on the data, the likelihood of a humid heatwave like the one that occurred in February in southern West Africa was ten times higher owing to climate change.

In the past, there were fewer than a hundred years between such heatwaves. Nonetheless, comparable humid heatwaves happen roughly once every ten years in the current climate, which is increasing by 1.2°C,” the 27-page report stated.

Similar incidents happen once every two years at 2°C.
Africa is the most susceptible continent in the world, despite its small contribution to global climate change.

In the 14th Emissions Gap Report 2023, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said that even with the most optimistic climate action programs, there is only a 14% probability of keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels.

This suggests that Africa will continue to be affected if the world does not swiftly move away from fossil fuels and attain Net Zero emissions. According to it, West Africa will get another 1.2–3.4°C hotter.

Investments must be increased immediately.
Nine nations included in the 27-page analysis: Nigeria, Benin, Ghana, Togo, Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and little portions of Guinea and Cameroon.

Scientists noted that authorities, particularly the government and media, are not doing enough to inform the public about the hazards of excessive heat and to detect its consequences, even though the heat wave may harm millions of people in these countries.

For example, the lack of strong institutional policies means that many heat-related casualties go unreported at the federal level. The whole situation not reflected in the EMDAT database, which records data on extreme weather occurrences, loss, and damage, including deaths brought on by heat waves.

Despite being aware of the heat risk, national weather agencies do not consistently apply preparedness measures, and they have just lately begun to work toward developing Heat Early Warning systems.

For instance, a state of emergency was to declared in areas of Nigeria severely affected by the heatwave by a heat-health warning that issued in February.

There are no validated ‘Early Action Protocols’ or heat action plans currently in place in this region, said the study acknowledging efforts of municipal authorities in Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown.

The report acknowledged the efforts of local officials in Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown, but stated that there are presently no approved “Early Action Protocols” or heat action plans in place in this region.

To work on adaptation to intense heat, Eugenia Kargbo chosen as the first African Chief Heat Officer in 2021. The Heat Season Campaign and Freetown’s first climate action plan introduced in 2023.

Thus, the scientists conclude that there is an urgent need to scale up efforts in monitoring, research, and adaptation due to uncharacteristically early and harsher heatwaves in an area with extremely sensitive populations.

This will entail, among other things, expanding heat advisories to hot days outside of the normally hot season and enhancing the availability and calibre of essential services like energy, healthcare, water, and sanitation.

In such a scenario, Africa would require significant investment to increase heat tolerance. However, Africa’s capacity to adapt, mitigate, and fortify itself against climate change seriously threatened by the climate funding gap.

By 2030, the continent will have a $200–400 billion annual deficit. The African Economic Ministers’ Conference also placed a strong emphasis on the obstacles related to climate finance.

Furthermore, just $21 billion has invested by wealthy industrialized nations to aid developing nations in climate change adaptation. Per the attribution study, they have fallen short of their pledge to assist developing nations, particularly those in Africa, in strengthening their ability to withstand the increasing threats posed by climate change.

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