Prepare for more extreme heatwaves, drought and storms
New report shows that SA should start preparing for an increase in more extreme weather events
South Africa should brace itself for more extreme heatwaves, droughts, thunderstorms, floods and hail storms – and it is not ready to deal with it.
That was the critical take-home point from the South African Risk and Vulnerability Atlas, a report compiled by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) according to one of the report’s editors, Julia Mambo.
She told Times Select at the launch of the report in Johannesburg on Wednesday that extreme weather events such as flooding, hail storms, thunderstorms and droughts would all increase in the future. They had the potential to increase human illnesses caused by parasites and lead to food, energy and water insecurity, which would consequently threaten livelihoods.
“The key finding is that we are not prepared to respond to climate change,” said Mambo.
“We need to be investing more in terms of adaptation right now. Responding to changes in temperature is critical for water, industry and agriculture – which will affect our food security and health.”The report found that the Southern Cape would get drier, while coastal areas would get wetter. South Africa would also see more heatwaves and very hot days in excess of 35°C, which would lead to an increase in wildfires.
Of critical importance was the need for planners and decision-makers to move from reactive crisis management approaches to proactive climate change and disaster risk management approaches.
CSIR natural resources and environment executive director May Hermanus said settlements were increasingly becoming vulnerable to risks through swelling poverty, lack of basic services and human rights, and their extension into unsafe land.
“Their vulnerabilities are expected to increase due to the high levels of informal housing and the lack of efficient management of these growth areas. Rural areas are particularly vulnerable due to their dependency on climate-sensitive resources such as water and an agrarian landscape,” said Hermanus.Mambo said policies to arrest the effects of climate change were being held back because of a lack of robust implementation.
“We’ve got quite a few sizeable policies in place in South Africa which are preparing us to respond, but what are we doing on the ground? We need to be looking more at community projects and implementing more of the recommendations that are made. Let’s stop talking about it, let’s implement.”
She said South Africans no longer needed convincing on the reality and effects of climate change.
“I think after [the] Cape Town [drought], people are aware there is something going on with the climate. So I think we are beyond having to convince people that climate change is real. We are now at the point of ‘what do we do about it’?”
The report, now in its second edition after first being released in 2012, is also supplemented by an online portal, which government plans to use to assist municipalities with their integrated development planning.