Climate Change in South Africa

Climate change in South Africa

How will we experience climate change?

HIGH TEMPERATURES: Recent studies at UCT predict that temperatures will increase over the whole of South Africa due to climate change. January temperatures are expected to increase by 2.5 – 4.5oC in the central interior and Northern Cape and by 0.5 – 1.0oC at the coast.

WATER RESOURCES: Less rainfall or an increase in evaporation (due to higher temperatures) would further strain the already limited amount of water for agriculture, homes and for industry. In general summer rainfall will decrease by between 5% in the northern regions and 25% in the eastern and southern Cape. The Western Cape may lose as much as 35% of its current winter rainfall.

GRAZING LIVESTOCK: Higher carbon dioxide will lead to less protein in the grass, which will reduce any benefit resulting from increased plant growth. Less rainfall would lead to proportionately less animal production.

BIODIVERSITY: Plants, in particular, have trouble keeping up with rapid climate change. Small populations of plants could go extinct as a result. Within 50 – 100 years, areas that support Succulent Karoo vegetation today will become so dry that only the hardiest plants will be able to survive (see the map on the right).

Estimated Deaths Attributed to Climate Change - 2000
A team of health and climate scientists showed that the growing health impacts of climate change affect different regions in markedly different ways. Ironically, the places that have contributed the least to warming the Earth are the most vulnerable to the death and disease higher temperatures can bring.

 

The Succulent Karoo can expect…:

  • The Western Cape can expect less winter rainfall, more summer rainfall and a shift to more irregular and intense rainfall with rising temperatures.
  • We can expect competition for fresh water to increase sharply
  • Less water in rivers will have an impact on wetlands
  • Sea level rise is expected and an inflow of saltwater will occur into coastal aquifers (groundwater)
  • Warmer and drier climates will reduce our species richness and potentially increase alien invasive species and fire frequency and danger
  • Major floods that have only happened before say, every 100 years on average, may now start to happen every 10 or 20 years. The flood season may become longer and there will be flooding in places where there has never been any before
  • We will see different impacts and results of climate change in different areas making the task of planning very difficult. More detailed studies have to be made to determine more localised impacts in the Succulent Karoo region