What Does Climate Change Mean for a Coastal African Country Like South Africa?
Marine biologist Thembeka Shongwe explains how climate change is impacting the country’s oceans.
The United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP26, hailed as the world’s last best chance to effectively tackle climate change, is currently underway in Glasgow. You can read here about what the conference has achieved so far but, largely, the developing and island nations most vulnerable to climate change's impacts have been left on the sidelines.
South Africa is one such country, with its biodiversity and ecosystems under threat. The country has a magnificent coastline where the Atlantic and Indian Ocean meet on its West Coast, boasting an incredibly rich marine wildlife. So how does climate change affect this kind of region specifically?
The Rainbow Nation's weather is characterised by a generally warmer climate that has cooler temperatures in high altitude regions. However, these past few decades we have seen a significant rise in extreme weather conditions.
This has resulted in more in-land droughts for a country that is already considered water-scarce. Droughts and water shortages have been plaguing the nation for decades, and saw a peak in 2015 when the city of Cape Town was nearing complete loss of water, declared as a national disaster.
Coastal regions, meanwhile, are experiencing a rise in flooding, amid more frequent and severe thunderstorms, raging winds, and even tropical cyclones. Areas like the Western Cape have seen rainfall of up to 30 millimeters. While this may seem like a welcome relief to the drought-prone province, it actually causes localised flooding and damage to infrastructure.
Human activity has also played a significant role in the degradation of South Africa's land and seas. A recent report by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) named South Africa as the 11th worst in the world for contributing to ocean plastic.
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