Table of Contents
1. Abbreviations and acronyms
2. The impact of climate change in South Africa
3. Initiatives undertaken by the South African government to address climate change
4. The impact of climate change on business leaders in South Africa
5. The need, role and requirements of the environmental manager
6. The benefits of United Nations Global Compact membership
ABBREVIATIONS AND ACRONYMS
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The Impact of Climate Change ¡ท South Africa
According to the Department of Environmental Affairs of the Republic of South Africa (Hereafter referred to as “RSA”) (2011), climate change is a shift in the earth’s weather conditions whereby the most noticeable change is increased global temperature which directly affects the global ecosystem, known as global warming. This affects and therefore alters rainfall patterns resulting in severe weather episodes such as flooding and droughts. In this section climate change will be explored and analysed. The impact of climate change on health, weather, food security and water resources in South Africa will be discussed, and predictions regarding the future of climate change impact within South Africa will be assessed.
To date climate change has resulted in an increase in global temperature, an increase in the global sea level, decreased snow cover in the northern hemisphere, and an increase in rainfall is certain areas, such as North and South America and Northern and Central Asia. The increase in rainfall is alternated with severe and extended droughts in the tropics and subtropics, and in South Africa air temperature has increased greatly since the 1950s.
According to the Department of Environmental Affairs of RSA (2011) the escalation of industrial enterprises has heightened the amount of greenhouse gases within the atmosphere therefore accelerating the natural process of climate change to a point where the earth’s ecosystem is unable to keep up. Such gases are released when fossil fuels like coal, oil, diesel and natural gas are burned for energy purposes. The combination of gases, such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, creates a blanket effect that prevents heat from leaving the atmosphere. This results in heat being returned to the earth, therefore increasing its temperature. According to the National Climate Change Response White Paper (2011), this is known as the greenhouse effect.
The Department of Environmental Affairs of RSA (2011) confirms that the acceleration of global warming is the result of human actions due to the burning of fossil fuels and the removal of forests, directly affecting the earth’s capacity to remove greenhouse gases:
Increases in the atmospheric concentrations of gases known as greenhouse gases are largely to blame for a steady increase in average global temperatures and this, in turn, Is the change of our climate.(The Department of Environmental Affairs of RSA, 2011 )
The United Nations Global Compact (Hereafter referred to as “UNGC”) (2010) confirms that the global climate system is being transformed by human activity and that everyone is responsible for reducing climate change. In agreement with the Department of Environmental Affairs of RSA and the UNGC, McCarthy (2005) states that humans are the main contributors to climate change, which directly and negatively affects and impacts the global ecosystem. According to the Minister of Environmental Affairs Edna Molewa (2011), Africa as a continent has been the lowest contributor to greenhouse gases on a global scale however it is one of the most severely affected continents with regards to climate change. South Africa’s National Climate Change Response White Paper (Hereafter referred to as “NCCR White Paper”) (2011) suggests that the decline in water availability due to climate change, will threaten human health and agriculture in South Africa in the near future. This is already evident in various parts of Africa such as Kenya, where there is decreased food production and limited water availability.
Mzenda and de Jongh (2011) note that climate change is a topical subject due to its expansive impact on the ecosystem as well as its impact on business. Climate change has become a business issue as a result of reporting requirements, increased regulations, investor pressure, energy price fluctuations, business costs due to climate change itself, and market demand for environmentally friendly products and technologies.
“Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is an urgent priority.” (Krueger, Biedrzycki and Hoverter, 2014:79). Climate change is a developing health issue and South Africans are particularly susceptible to these health threats according to the Department of Environmental Affairs of RSA (2011). The NCCR White Paper (2011) recognises that severe weather incidents will negatively affect the vulnerable communities within South Africa in terms of food availability and nutritional condition. This will threaten their resistance to disease. It is noted severe weather incidents are connected with water borne diseases. Drought, flood and temperature increases are linked to disease outbreaks within lower income areas where close living proximity is evident.
According to Nilsson, Evangard, Sauerborn and Byass (2012) climate change is a public health dilemma. Human health and climate change are closely interrelated as weather greatly influences human lifestyle and behavior. Alterations in weather patterns due to climate change influence human health due to limited food availability and a decrease in physical activity.
Heat stress has been identified by the NCCR White Paper (2011) as a direct physical effect of climate change. Data from South Africa’s previous forty years indicates an increase in the amount of heat intensive days due to climate change resulting in an elevated number of heat stress patients.
Mathee, Oba and Rose (2010) confirm that people who work in sun-exposed environments within South Africa, such as farms, experience negative heat related health issues including blister formation, sinus problems, headaches, dizziness and nose bleeds. Furthermore it was stated that workers found that performing their duties in hot weather to be very difficult and uncomfortable. “Women felt that they could not cope with hot weather as well as men did, especially when they had to do labour intensive work.” (Mathee et al., 2010:6)
The NCCR White Paper (2011 ) highlights the serious health effects as a result of air pollution caused by the burning of fossil fuels. Furthermore Thambiran and Diab (2010) predict that climate change is the precursor to long term seasonal disruptions in weather patterns, which will have a direct impact on the circulation of pollutants in the atmosphere. Confirmed by the Department of Environmental Affairs of RSA (2011) it is predicted that climate change will negatively impact on the weather throughout the South Africa. It is assumed that by the year 2050 temperature in coastal regions within South Africa will increase by approximately one to two degrees Celsius while temperature in interior regions will increase by approximately three to four degrees Celsius. Blignaut, Ueckermann and Aronson (2009) confirm that South Africa has been about two percent warmer and six percent drier between the years 1997 and 2006.
Thambiran and Diab (2010) confirm that rainfall is a vital mechanism for the elimination of pollutants from the atmosphere. According to the Department of Environmental Affairs of RSA (2011), the severe reduction in rainfall patterns in conjunction with higher evaporation rates due to increased temperatures, will diminish stream flows and therefore decline water availability in the western areas of South Africa. The biodiversity of South Africa with regards to the grasslands, fynbos and Karoo will be greatly affected and plant and animal extinctions are predicted.
According Lall, Heikkilä, Brown and Siegfried (2008) and the Department of Environmental Affairs of RSA (2011) extreme weather incidents will be more persistent and more serious. Due to the fact that a considerable percentage of the country’s population live in poverty with unsuitable housing infrastructure, it is estimated that such incidents will cost the country approximately one billion rand per year between 2000 and 2009. Furthermore commercial forestry will incur an increase in fires and a decrease in water availability, especially in the south-western areas of South Africa.
Manoj-Kumar and Patra (2010:887) note that rising air temperatures and the increase of carbon dioxide are intimately linked with the growth and production of crops, specifically wheat and rice, which comprise of approximately ninety five percent of agriculturally essential crops globally. As stated by the NCCR White Paper (2011) agriculture on a global level is a major contributor to climate change, providing fourteen percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore agriculture is the greatest consumer of water and is highly susceptible to fluctuations in water availability, water pollution and soil erosion due to severe rainfall incidents.
Blignaut etai. (2009) note that irrigation agriculture makes up sixty percent of the total water consumption in South Africa, and that the net agricultural income is expected to be negatively affected by a decrease in rainfall due to climate change. In South Africa commercial agriculture is a fundamental contributor to employment, and crop failures have a serious impact on the economy as suggested by the NCCR White Paper (2011 ). Molewa (2011 ) explains that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts a fifty percent decrease in yields from rain-reliant agriculture by the year 2020, and water insufficiency before 2025.
According to the Department of Environmental Affairs of RSA (2011) subsistence and small scale farmers in dry areas are the most defenseless against climate change. Larger scale farming remains susceptible due to decreased water availability for irrigation purposes. It is predicted that maize production in summer rainfall regions and cereal production in winter rainfall regions will suffer due to the reduction of water availability.
Tibesigwa, Visser and Turpie (2015) confirm that poverty stricken households in South Africa currently surviving through subsistence farming to supplement their income and nutritional needs are the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. It is explained that specialised crop farmers are most exposed, and an effective strategy of crop-livestock variation may contribute to surviving the impacts of climate change. Furthermore it is confirmed that currently climate change may be slightly harmful however, but by the year 2080 it will contribute to a 151 per cent loss in net revenue.
Manoj-Kumar and Patra (2010:888) argue that approximately fifty percent of humanity is suffering from various forms of malnutrition currently, specifically in underprivileged and developing countries located in tropical and subtropical regions. Communities in India, South Asia and Africa are largely dependent on plant-based diets for nutritionally security. Increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere due to climate change directly affects the ability of crops to absorb nutrients through their roots via water or diffusion. This greatly decreases the concentration of nutrients in crops and directly reduces the amount of human nutrition provided. In South Africa, malnutrition is a health problem that is most prevalent. Decreasing nutritional values in crops due to climate change will only exacerbate the issue.
According to the Department of Environmental Affairs of RSA (2011) the Agulhas current and parts of the Benguela have increased in temperature. In conjunction with rising sea levels, there could be a possible negative impact on sea life, and therefore on the communities that rely on these for survival. Fisheries are a vital component of South Africa’s food security and local livelihood. Lall et al. (2008) confirm that there is currently an accelerated rate of aquatic degradation and biodiversity harm, suggesting that there are three types of global water crises, namely water pollution, water resource depletion, and limited access to safe drinking water.
Dallas and Rivers-Moore (2013) note that freshwater ecosystems are one of the most vulnerable to global climate change. It is stated that South Africa is a water stressed country that receives a mean annual precipitation of 500mm annually, which equates to about sixty percent of the global average. The NCCR White Paper (2011) confirms Dallas and Rivers-Moore’s statement and explains that South Africa is a water deficient country with a fluctuating climate and a low run-off. The current situation will be aggravated by the effects of climate change and by the year 2050, South Africa will overstep the limits of economically viable water resources. According to the Department of Environmental Affairs of RSA (2011) South Africa is already experiencing decreased and irregular rainfall, and a major proportion of surface water resources are fully allocated.
The NCCR White Paper (2011) confirms that rainfall will oscillate and extreme weather incidents such as extended droughts and flooding will occur. It is suggested that western and interior parts of South Africa will become drier while a high rainfall is expected in the eastern areas. The increased rainfall will irritate sedimentation in dams impacting on water supply and treatment.
Dallas and Rivers-Moore (2013) confirm that the amount of water in freshwater ecosystems is directly affected by global climate change through the changing of run-off patterns, the increase of extreme weather incidents and fluctuating groundwater recharge rates. In terms of water quality, increased water temperatures and rainfall intensity, and extended periods of drought will escalate many forms of water pollution such as sediments, dissolved organic carbon, pathogens and pesticides. Furthermore, as suggested by the NCCR White Paper (2011 ), the combination of increased temperature and increased carbon dioxide will present an ideal platform for the growth of algae and quicker evaporation of water resources.
Juana, Mangad¡ and strzepek (2012) note that a decrease in South African water resources will result in a decline in household welfare. Kahinda, Taigbenu and Boroto (2010) agree that climate change is a threat to South Africa’s water resources and recommend rainwater harvesting as a survival measure for the African continent in order to manage future climate change.
According to the Department of Environmental Affairs of RSA (2011), scientific research predicts that the global average temperature may heighten to three degrees Celsius by the end of the twenty first century. This would result in rising sea levels by around one meter, causing parts of coastal cities to be submerged. In India, Nepal and South America, melting glaciers will decrease water supply and unforeseen weather patterns and extreme weather incidents will result in severe, frequent and extended flooding, droughts and storms. Such weather variations and extreme droughts will lead to failing crop harvests in Africa. Decreased food and water resources will lead to famine and approximately two hundred million people will be displaced by extreme flooding. It is concluded that the impact of climate change may possibly cost the global economy approximately twenty percent of the world’s gross domestic product, which is the monetary value of a country’s finished goods and services.
In this section climate change was explored and analysed. The impact of climate change on health, weather, food security and water resources in South Africa was discussed, and the predictions regarding the future of climate change impact within South Africa was assessed.
Initiatives Taken by the South African Government to Address Climate Change In this section the manner in which the South African government is currently addressing climate change is analysed and evaluated. Initiatives undertaken by the South African government are explored and discussed.
According to the Department of Environmental Affairs of the Republic of South Africa (Hereafter referred to as “RSA”) (2011), the South African government identifies the importance of climate change and the negative impact that it has on the country’s development. This was formally confirmed at the National Climate Change Conference in the year 2005. Thereafter in the year 2008, the government stated that it would establish a national climate change response policy to outline a socio-economic shift towards climate change resilience and a low-carbon economy and society. This would include a reduction in greenhouse gases and an adaptation towards the impacts of climate change.
The South African national climate change response policy is in alignment with beliefs held by the executive director of the United Nations Global Compact (Hereafter referred to as ‘UNGC”), Georg Kell. Kell (2014) argues that governments should establish facultative environments for business with regards to contributing to the mitigation of climate change while motivating environmentally supportive practice.
The Department of Environmental Affairs of RSA (2011) states that the government’s climate response policy focuses on inhibiting the global temperature escalation to less than two degrees Celsius while ensuring that South Africa is prepared for the imminent impacts of climate change. This is supported by the intensification of early warning and disaster mitigation systems regarding basic services, farming, water resource management, health services add infrastructure planning. The goal of the climate response policy is the leveling of rising greenhouse gas emissions by the years 2020 and 2025, with a decline following thereafter.
According to the Department of Environmental Affairs of RSA (2011) the South African government considers climate change to be one of the most considerable threats to sustainable development. With this in mind, the stabilsation and attrition of greenhouse gas emissions will necessitate global collaboration in conjunction with self-regulation.
Kell (2012) states that the extended stress on natural resources threatens to negatively affect national and global economies and societies. It is argued that over one billion people experience a shortage to food, acceptable drinking water and electricity, and that climate change is a serious contributor to declining ecosystems. Milpark Education (2015:96) identifies the various consequences of climate change on South Africa and its citizens. Such consequences include heightened governmental social spending due to the ill effects of inflation and unemployment caused by rising raw material costs. Labour cuts and work shortages necessitated by decreasing business profit margins will result in unemployment and a poor standard of living for a large percentage of the South African public.
The Department of Environmental Affairs of RSA (2011) suggests that scientific research predicts that rising sea levels may cause parts of coastal cities to be submerged resulting in a loss of property and relief efforts by the government as well as increased infrastructure costs. Weather variations and extreme droughts will lead to failing crop harvests and decreased food and water resources will lead to famine. It is concluded that the impact of climate change may possibly cost the global economy approximately twenty percent of the world’s gross domestic product, which is the monetary value of a country’s finished goods and services. With this in mind it is evident that South Africa’s gross domestic product will decrease.
Rising raw material costs will have a knock on effect throughout the production supply chain, increasing the cost of living for all South Africans. Furthermore extreme weather conditions such as floods and extended droughts will exacerbate water borne illnesses leading to increasing health threats and challenges throughout the country.
- Quote paper
- Samantha Worthington (Author), 2015, South Africa’s Green Economy. Effects, Challenges, and Successes, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/439162