Climate Risk Profile: West Africa
West Africa is one of the world’s most vulnerable regions to climate variability and change. Increasing temperatures and shifting rainfall patterns are already affecting livelihoods, food security, and economic and governance stability. Extreme climate variability since the 1970s has resulted in agricultural losses, recurrent food crises, both water scarcity and extreme flooding, and environmental degradation. Warming across the region is greater than the global average, a trend expected to continue, with the greatest warming in the Sahel. The region’s long coastline, home to densely populated cities and economic hubs, is experiencing sea level rise and severe coastal erosion, projected to increase with significant impacts to the coastal population, urban centers and ports, coastal aquifers, and the agriculture and fisheries sectors. Togo and Mauritania have lost more than 2 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) to coastal degradation and erosion in one year. Crops and livestock, a base for about 60 percent of livelihoods and 35 percent of GDP regionally, face increasing heat stress and variability in rainfall, including more frequent and damaging heavy rainfall events and diminishing rainfall in the west of the region. Transnational dimensions of climate impacts include food and water quality and availability, health conditions related to air quality, disruption of transportation networks, and migration. Climate vulnerability is compounded by high dependence on rainfed agriculture, rapid population growth, pervasive poverty, and inadequate access to safe water and sanitation.