One of the biggest crises facing the human population is not a complete shocker. It affects countless nations across our planet, and is continually getting worse and worse. There are things that we can do, but so many of us fail to do anything. Governments are worse, prolonging worsening conditions and human lives in the process.
And no, it’s not global warming. It’s the myriad humanitarian crises that plague the third world.
That I am writing about it here though, obviously speaks to a link to one of PlanetSave’s main topics; climate science.
I’ve covered a lot of science during my tenure at GO, and love doing so. One of the most devastating conclusions though that science has ever brought to our attention, comes in the form of a new study published in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. An interdisciplinary study, looking at data from the past 20 years, led by a team of geographers from the University of California, Santa Barbara, its conclusion shows that the warming of the Indian Ocean has directly affected the rainfall over the eastern seaboard of Africa.
And not surprisingly to those of you who have even the vaguest idea of Africa’s conditions, this is not good news.
In fact, according to the study, rainfall along the eastern seaboard has been declining by as much as 15% per year over the last 20. Furthermore, if the decline continues at its current pace, the sheer amount of undernourished individuals living in that area will increase by more than 50% by 2030.
“Our work suggests that greenhouse gas emissions, which have come mostly from the wealthy, developed countries, already constitute an example of dangerous climate change,” said Chris Funk, an associate researcher with the UCSB geography department’s Climate Hazards Group and the article’s lead author.
The main problem is found in the fact that, according to historical data of seasonal rainfall over the Indian Ocean and Africa’s eastern seaboard taken between 1950 and 2005, show a decrease in rainfall in the area but an increase in rainfall over the ocean. Countries most harshly affected include Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, and Zimbabwe.
Analyses run by the team indicate that increased rainfall occurring over the Indian Ocean, caused by rising sea-temperatures, will create anomalies in the traditional transport of moisture between the ocean and the land. As a result, rain for the main growing seasons for the region is lessened.
“The models agree that anthropogenic warming has occurred over the past 50 years and will occur over the next 50 years,” said Funk. “We show that this warming has caused and likely will cause main-growing-season drought in the world’s most food insecure countries.”
The worst thing about this is that according to Funk, the interdisciplinary team’s food-balance model showed that only a modest increase in agricultural capacity would result in a 40% reduction of starving Africans.
“Many of the farming techniques used now are inadequate, and there has been very little support for agricultural development,” Funk said. “There’s very little use of fertilizer or farm machinery. That means there’s a strong potential to increase farm production. Modest improvements in per capita agricultural capacity could substantially alleviate undernourishment, making Africa agriculturally self-supporting in 30 years. Even with declining rainfall, Africa can be self-sufficient.”