The Forgotten Continent

0814-03 When you consider the evolutionary timeline of human history, it is surprising to find that our birthplace is now little more than a passing thought in our minds. Africa is the country that receives the least attention from the world. We know only countries like Somalia, South Africa and Sudan because of their strife and turmoil.

But why is it that we forget about them when it comes to global warming?

The U.N.’s top climate official, Yvo de Boer, has just brought Africa back in to the spotlight. Africa is one of the most impoverished countries in the world, and currently one of the hardest hit by climate changes.

Thankfully, the United Nations has not followed in humanities steps by disregarding an entire continent on the brink. de Boer told Reuters that based on the projected damage for Africa, there is justification to take climate action regardless of whether damage will be caused to the rest of the world.

In other words, the damage being faced by the Africans is so extreme, that even if they were the only country to be affected, the U.N. would push for the entire planet to affect change for Africa’s sake.

“Africa has been the forgotten continent,” in efforts to combat warming, de Boer said to Reuters. He was speaking via telephone from a meeting of African and Mediterranean nations in Tunis about climate change.

He pointed out that countries like China and India have won more funding than Africa to help with climate issues, such as cutting greenhouse gas emissions. And while from a certain perspective that is not entirely a bad thing – i.e., India and China bear the brunt of the western world’s industrial.

“Africa is not getting a lot out of climate change policy at the moment,” de Boer said. “But climate change will affect Africa very severely.”

Africa’s environmental strife has also been put into writing, in the 26 page IPCC climate summary released on Saturday in Valencia. The stats figure that between 75 and 250 million people on what is the world’s poorest continent are likely to encounter increased water stresses by 2020. In addition, that water stress could reduce rain-fed agriculture by up to 50%. “That in itself is enough for more world action,” de Boer said.

Furthermore, Africa could see the adaptation to rising seas on their coast cost up to 5 or 10% of their gross domestic product by the end of this century. Add to that an increase of 5 to 8% of arid and semi-arid lands in Africa by 2080, and the entire continent is suffering at both ends of the scale, wet and dry.

More than a hundred of the world’s environmental ministers meet in Bali in under a month, and de Boer believes that there is a general consensus to work over the next two years, to develop a clear plan. But with the United States still unwilling to look at Kyoto without keeping a hand on their own profit margin, one wonders how much affect the world’s “biggest” country will have on the proceedings.

Needless to say, Africa needs help that only we western nations can provide. We started the problem; it seems only fair that we should bear the brunt of fixing it.

Reuters via ENN – Africa “forgotten continent” in climate fight

Photo – This NASA satellite file image shows Lake Tanganyika in East Africa. Global warming is wrecking Africa’s Lake Tanganyika, inflicting a catastrophic decline in fish catches, a study says. (AFP-NASA/File)

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