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ACTSA Briefing Paper: Climate change in southern Africa

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Introduction

Global warming is the greatest environmental challenge facing the world today. Increasing global temperatures are bringing about rapid changes in weather patterns, rising sea levels and increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather. The impact of this global warming is increasingly apparent; especially in the developing world, where livelihoods are being destabilised due to more frequent and prolonged floods and droughts. Developed countries, whose high-carbon economies are driving the causes of climate change, will also suffer the impacts and have the responsibility to act.

Southern Africa contributes little to climate change but suffers disproportionately from its effects. It is one of the most vulnerable regions to the negative effects of climate change and faces great challenges to sufficiently respond in both its rural communities and urban centres. Recent droughts and flooding have demonstrated the region's openness to multiple impacts (e.g. food and water insecurity, health consequences, migration and displacement), its limited capacity to react and infrastructural and institutional weaknesses. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts that, "the effects of climate change are expected to be greatest in developing countries in terms of loss of life and relative effects on investment and economy." It describes Africa as "the continent most vulnerable to the impacts of projected change because widespread poverty limits adaptation capabilities".