Africa / CCAFS / Climate Change / Drylands / DRYLANDSCRP / ILRI

Climate change scientists warn of 4-degree global temperature rise

Dryland in northern Kenya

Dryland in Marsabit District, northern Kenya; 80 per cent of Kenya’s lands are dry or semi-dry; some of these drylands are predicted to get drier still in this century as a result of climate change (photo credit: ILRI/Mude).

Philip Thornton, an agricultural systems analyst with the International Livestock Research Institute, is quoted in the Guardian today on how climate change is likely to affect sub-Saharan Africa. Excerpts from the article follow.

‘The hellish vision of a world warmed by 4° C within a lifetime has been set out by an international team of scientists, who say the glacial progress of the global climate change talks that restart in Mexico today makes the so-called safe limit of 2° C impossible to keep. A 4° C rise in the planet’s temperature would see severe droughts across the world and millions of migrants seeking refuge as their food supplies collapse.

‘”There is now little to no chance of maintaining the rise in global surface temperature at below 2° C, despite repeated high-level statements to the contrary,” said Kevin Anderson, at the University of Manchester, who with colleague Alice Bows contributed research to a special collection of Royal Society journal papers published today. “Moreover, the impacts associated with 2C have been revised upwards so that 2° C now represents the threshold [of] extremely dangerous climate change.”

‘The new analysis by Anderson and Bows takes account of the non-binding pledges made by countries in the Copenhagen Accord, the compromise document that emerged from the last major UN climate summit, and the slight dip in greenhouse gas emissions caused by the economic recession. The scientists’ modelling is based on actual tonnes of emissions, not percentage reductions, and separates the predicted emissions of rich and fast-industrialising nations such as China. “2010 represents a political tipping point,” said Anderson . . . .

‘. . . In sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), “the prognosis for agriculture and food security in a 4C world is bleak”, according Philip Thornton, of Kenya’s International Livestock Research Institute, who led another research team. He notes there will be an extra billion people populating the Africa continent by 2050.

‘”Croppers and livestock keepers in SSA have in the past shown themselves to be highly adaptable to short- and long-term variations in climate. But the kind of changes that would occur in a 4° C-plus world would be way beyond anything experienced in recent times. It is not difficult to envisage a situation where the adaptive capacity and resilience of hundreds of millions of people could simply be overwhelmed by events,” Thornton’s team concludes.

‘. . . The speed–as well as the size–of the temperature rise is crucial too, warned scientists from Oxford University, as faster rates of global warming could outpace the ability of human civilisation and the natural world to adapt. . . .’

Read the whole article at the Guardian, Climate change scientists warn of 4C global temperature rise, 29 November 2010.

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