Africa and its ecologies: people and nature in the age of climate change

Anthropogenic climate change is now accepted as a scientific fact, and in the coming decades it will have increasing and multi-faceted impacts on both natural ecosystems and livelihoods at a global level. For Africa, observations and projections indicate relatively modest warming but major changes in both the amount and seasonality of rainfall across the continent. These rainfall trends are region-specific, with some parts of Africa expected to receive less rainfall than other regions an annual basis, compared to current figures. However, all regions are expected to experience a greater incidence of extreme rainfall or drought. It is therefore likely that climate change will have an overall negative impact on water availability in Africa, which may lead to the serious disruption of natural functioning of ecosystems and increased stress on available land and water resources. Climate change will have an impact on biodiversity in various parts of Africa and result in more deforestation. Even the shifting seasonality of rainfall patterns is impacting agricultural systems in many regions, adding to the already major challenges with regard to food production and food security. Consequently, climate change will most likely also have negative health impacts, ranging from local food shortages to expanding urban heat islands and water-borne diseases. Vector-borne diseases and other neglected tropical diseases will add to the burden of malnutrition especially among young children and women. In some regions, human security and the livelihoods of vulnerable groups themselves will be at risk, as the increased demands on scarce resources will spawn violent conflict, rapid urbanization and forced migration.
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