Africa faces skyrocketing costs of climate change, projected to reach $440 billion

Africa contributes minimally to global greenhouse gas emissions but bears a disproportionate brunt of climate change’s devastating effects. A recent report by the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) stresses that the continent is becoming a hotspot for climate-induced crises affecting food security, ecosystems, and economies. In turn, these strains exacerbate displacement, migration, and conflict over dwindling resources.

The rate of climate change-related temperature increase across Africa has surged in recent decades, resulting in more severe weather and climate-related hazards. The financial support for climate adaptation in the continent remains woefully inadequate, highlighting an urgent need for targeted investment.

In 2022 alone, weather, climate, and water-related hazards impacted more than 110 million people and caused over $8.5 billion in economic damage across the African continent. Moreover, roughly 5,000 fatalities were reported, mainly due to drought and flooding. However, the actual numbers are suspected to be higher owing to under-reporting.

The report identifies significant gaps in weather observation and early warning services across Africa. The chasm between what’s needed and the services available remains expansive, signaling an urgent need for action. The revelations came during the Africa Climate Summit, coinciding with the release of the Early Warnings For All in Africa Action Plan.

Agriculture is central to Africa’s economy, employing more than half of the labor force. Yet, climate change has driven down agricultural productivity by 34% since 1961. Coupled with this decline, food imports are predicted to triple, rising from $35 billion to $110 billion by 2025.

Projected loss and damage costs in Africa due to climate change could soar to between $290 billion and $440 billion, based on the extent of global warming. The impact of these costs will depend on various factors, including global mitigation efforts and local investment in climate adaptation.

Finally, the depletion of natural resources due to climate change could escalate conflicts over land, water, and pastures. The report indicates a rising trend in farmer-herder conflicts due to increasing land pressure, particularly in sub-Saharan countries.

The multi-agency report is a collaborative effort, drawing input from the African Union Commission, the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), African National Meteorological and Hydrological Services, and specialized United Nations agencies, among others.