The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has released a damning report about the state of the climate crisis and the lack of mitigation and adaptation action, globally. Here are a few reasons South Africans should take note and take action to reduce global warming and the impacts of climate change.

  1. Southern Africa is warming at twice the global average and is therefore considered a climate change hotspot. It is projected that our region will become “drastically” warmer and drier, which will have devastating consequences, ultimately limiting our options for adaptation. By ignoring the climate science, we jeopardise the #JustTransition, putting more of our people in harm’s way and further disadvantaging our vulnerable communities.
  1. The reality is, at the current rate of emissions and the lack of success to significantly reduce it, the initial goal to stay below 1.5 ̊C is unattainable. According to the UN IPCC report, global warming is expected to hit the dreaded 1.5 ̊C mark ‘in the early 2030s’, even if we apply the best-case mitigation effort. The new goal, which brings us ever closer to catastrophe, is now to aim to stay below 2̊ ̊C. If we hit a 3 ̊C global average, multi-year droughts and heatwaves will intensify and become more frequent. More cyclones and hurricanes are also expected. This will collapse our maize and cattle industries, while will also impacting on human health and mortality. South Africa is not prepared for such events! We MUST cut our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions “immediately” and “substantially” by 2030.
  1. South Africa only has a carbon budget of 400 Gt CO2 – the country’s contribution to keeping global temperatures below the 1.5 ̊C threshold. However, at our current rate of emissions (at 40Gt CO2 per year), we are likely to blow through the budget in (about) 10 years. We are using up our share of carbon emissions allowed, too quickly. Since there is a clear link between CO2 increases and temperature rise, we must stop emitting GHGs for temperatures to stop rising. WATCH: UN IPCC press conference – Climate Change 2021: the Physical Science Basis, the Working Group I contribution to the Sixth Assessment Report.
  1. By now, from what the climate science has revealed, South Africa should have been robustly investing in renewable energy projects, especially since – according to the report – achieving a net-zero target is not enough. We must implement negative emissions. Yet, the SA government continues to chase fossil fuel projects that will only aggravate the situation.
  1. Climate change is already here! We must act now, or things will only get worse. The drought in Gauteng, already in a major water crisis, “is most likely” to intensify in the next 20 years. This is the single biggest climate change risk for South Africa (in the near term). According to projections, droughts that span three to six years will become a reality, along with more frequent and intense heatwaves. Changes experienced in our climate systems are “unprecedented” and if nothing is done, some of these changes – particularly to oceans, ice sheets & global sea levels – will be “irreversible”. It is in our best interest not to surpass the tipping points.

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is an intergovernmental panel that was established in 1988 by United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The panel provides regular assessments of the scientific basis of climate change, its impacts and future risks, and options for adaptation and mitigation. Its mandate is “to provide the world with a clear scientific view on the current state of knowledge in climate change and its potential environmental and socio-economic impacts.” The IPCC has 195 member countries.

For more information, see this video for what the IPCC report says about climate change implications for Africa and South Africa:

This Daily Maverick article also points out 5 lessons for SA:

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