Climate change education is needed in the face of storms

[NAIROBI] Reconstruction efforts after tropical storms and typhoons hit Madagascar, Malawi and Mozambique earlier this year must take into account the risks and impacts of climate change, a report says. .

Southeast Africa was hit by three tropical cyclones and two tropical storms in January and February this year.

According to a report published on April 11, Madagascar, Malawi and Mozambique were the hardest hit, with more than a million people affected by heavy rains and flooding, and 230 dead.

“Qualitative studies show that the intensity of similar heavy rainfall events has become greater due to human-induced climate change”

Sarah Kew, Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI), Netherlands

The report is the result of an investigation conducted by scientists in the affected countries of Africa and other countries such as India, Netherlands and South Africa to find out the factors that contributed to the storms, their effects. and how to react to future events.

“The effects of floods associated with heavy rainfall are enormous,” said Sarah Kew, co-author of the report and climate and weather extremes researcher in the United Kingdom. Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI) in the Netherlands.

“Qualitative studies show that the intensity of similar heavy rainfall events has become greater due to human-induced climate change,” he said.Taken together, this means that climate change and other factors are making people in the affected areas more vulnerable to such rainfall events, but how is unclear, he added.

According to the study, multiple rainfall events make it difficult for communities to recover from one storm and prepare for the next. He suggested that the risk of these “worsening crises” should be considered when rebuilding infrastructure and designing early warning systems.

KNMI climatologist Philip Sjoukje told SciDev.Net that the general findings of this study also apply to neighboring regions that have experienced similar weather patterns and similar weather patterns. But in regions with different seasonal rainfall or different climates, the results may be different.

The study was conducted from February 8 to April 11. “We always aim to announce the results of the study as soon as possible after the event, so that the message reaches the media and decision makers in a timely manner,” said Phillip Sjoukje. .

Raising public awareness

Sarah Kew points out that people in sub-Saharan Africa, including journalists who get the message out to the public, politicians and lawmakers, need to be concerned about man-made climate change and the first step is raising awareness about climate change and its impact on severe weather events.

“Although not all disasters are linked to extreme weather events and not all extreme weather events are linked to climate change, it is important to eliminate the influence of climate change and other causes of extreme events. . In this way, it is easier for decision makers to act and decide, for example, on appropriate adaptation measures ”. explained by Sarah Kew

“It’s important to know to what extent an event has become more likely due to human-induced climate change, because only decision makers can know what necessary to avoid further damage in a hot climate, “the researcher added.

Richard Munang, regional climate change coordinator for Africa at the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), says the southern African region is already warming twice as fast as the global average.

“This means that the exacerbation of these effects of climate change will happen faster in this region than in other parts of the world,” he explained.

“It’s an important study because it gives us scientific estimates. But the most important thing is our reaction to this science; what needs to change in decision-making and investing because of this science. And it should focus on one word: socio-economics ”, analyzes Richard Munang.According to the latter, the effects of climate change will affect all sectors of the economy and every segment of society has something to do to ensure Africa’s best response to climate change.

“So we need to look at the broader issue of climate change awareness in Africa. The national average of climate change awareness in Africa is 37%, which is lower than in Western countries which is more than 80%”, explained Richard Munang.

The original version of this article was produced in the English edition of SciDev.Net for Sub-Saharan Africa.

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