The figures speak for themselves: average wildlife populations have dropped by 60% in just over 40 years; two-thirds of extreme weather events in the last 20 years were influenced by human activity; 120,000 square kilometres of tropical forest were lost in 2018; carbon emissions from energy use are rising at the fastest rate since 2011; there’s more carbon dioxide in our atmosphere than any time in human history, and our summers and winters keep getting warmer.
Indeed, Indonesia is looking to build a new capital as Jakarta is sinking, while Venice is spending billions trying to shore up its sea defences. At the same time, many Pacific nations are expected to disappear completely in the next twenty to fifty years under rising seas.
There is no doubt that climate change is real.
Out of all the continents, Africa is finding itself the hardest hit. This is not just because hundreds of millions of Africa rely on rainfall to grow their food, or that the capacity for adaptation is low: poverty equates to a reduced choice at the individual level, whereas on a government level climate change issues tend to be a lower priority than immediate concerns like food production and health.
In Africa, climate change is manifesting itself currently through beach erosion, saline intrusion, droughts, flash floods and landslides, coral-reef bleaching and less productive fisheries and agricultural systems. Added to that there are the effects these changes are having on health, with rising temperatures causing famine and the deaths of hundreds of thousands or people.
Projections on land-based rainfall for 2099 show the two largest decreases in overall rainfall predicted to occur in Africa; the largest in North Africa and the second largest in Southern Africa. So, unless something is done Africa faces even more hardship.
The discussion at the World Economic Forum in Davos has been focused about sustainability, with the teenage activist Greta Thunberg saying we should be aiming for “real “zero carbon emissions targets, rather than “net-zero” targets, whilst Donald Trump suggesting the data was fabricated and we should be taking a more optimistic view on the future.
Going for reduced carbon footprints will potentially impact the rise of the African economy. In 2018, nearly 70 million international tourists visited Africa with the numbers increasing over the last three years, and as a result, the continent is the second-fastest growing tourism region in the world, with a growth rate of 5.6% in 2018 after Asia Pacific and against a 3.9% global average growth rate.
What those numbers add up to is just how vital is tourism: the industry provides jobs for 24.3million African’s – 6.7% of the population, while leisure accounts for 71% of tourist spend.
Apart from deterring increased numbers of visitors to the continent, with the automatic adverse impact on the economy, what else could be done today to lessen climate change?
The obvious answer is that everyone, including tourists, need to help reduce greenhouse gases and emissions from their personal transport, and rethinking of the overall environmental footprint.
New technology is available that now allows hotels to be powered almost exclusively by renewable energies, with grants available to help with the capital cost of the initial investment.
Construction materials can be changed to reduce the carbon footprint, and different management practices such as changing single use plastics from bathroom amenities, can have a dramatic impact on the consumption of non-recyclable materials.
Even something as simple as investing in tree planting as part of the landscaping can have a material long term benefit.
Climate change needs to be addressed on a global scale, and unfair as it may be, this will hit Africa disproportionately harder than other parts of the world, unless action is pushed higher up as a priority.