The IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report: Impacts, Adaptation Options and Investment Areas for a Climate-Resilient Central Africa

Discover what the IPCC AR6 says about how Central Africa will be impacted by climate change and its options and potential for adaptation.
a map of africa with central africa highlighted overlaid on a backdrop of a woman walking among trees - the title and some highlights from a report are also there

Introduction

Central Africa has already experienced widespread losses and damages from climate change. The climate has changed at rates “unprecedented in at least 2,000 years” due to human activity,1 finds the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Most African countries have contributed among the least to global greenhouse gas emissions causing climate change, yet have already experienced widespread losses and damages.Central Africa is no different and is already facing loss of lives and impacts on human health, reduced economic growth, water shortages, reduced food production, biodiversity loss, and adverse impacts on human settlements and infrastructure as a result of human-induced climate change.

Transformative adaptation – which includes climate risk reduction in every sphere of development – will contribute to achieving climate resilience in Central Africa.

This factsheet, available to download from the right-hand column, summarises the information about southern Africa in the IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report. It covers how southern Africa’s climate is currently changing, future climate projections for southern Africa, climate change impacts already seen, future climate risks, adaptation potential, and key investment areas for resilience. The text below provides a synthesis of the factsheet.

How Central Africa’s Climate is Changing

The Earth’s average surface temperature has already warmed by 1.09°C since pre-industrial times (1850–1900).However, Central Africa’s climate has warmed even more than the global average in the past few decades:

Temperature: Central Africa’s average annual surface temperatures have increased by between 0.75°C and 1.2°C since 1960.

Extreme heat and heat waves: The number of hot days, heatwaves and heatwave days increased between 1979–2016 and cold extremes have decreased. Poor ground-based observation networks in Central Africa result in medium confidence in the increase in the number of heat extremes.

Marine heat waves: Climate change has doubled the probability of heatwaves in the ocean around most of Africa.

Rainfall and extreme rainfall: The severe lack of station data leads to large uncertainty in estimating observed rainfall trends and low confidence in extreme rainfall changes.

Drought: There is some evidence of drying since the mid-20th century through decreased average rainfall, as well as increases in meteorological, agricultural and ecological drought Southern and eastern Central Africa were identified as drought hotspots between 1991–2010.

Central Africa’s Future Climate

Temperature: At 1.5°C, 2°C and 3°C global warming, average annual surface temperatures in Central Africa are projected to be higher than the global average.

Extreme heat and heat waves: The average number of days per year with maximum temperature exceeding 35°C will increase by 14–27 days at 2°C global warming and 33–59 days at 3°C global warming (from 61–63 days during the 1995–2014 period). The annual number of days above potentially lethal heat thresholds reaches 100–150 in Central Africa at 2.5°C. Extreme heatwave events may last longer than 180 days at 4.1°C global warming.22Children born in Central Africa in 2020 will, under 1.5°C global warming, be exposed to 6–8 times more heatwaves in their lifetimes than those born in 1960.

Marine heat waves: Increases in frequency, intensity, spatial extent and length of marine heatwaves are projected for all of Africa’s coastal zones.

Rainfall and extreme rainfall: At global warming of 1.5°C and 2°C, there is low confidence in projected changes in average rainfall over Central Africa.At 3°C and 4.4°C, average annual rainfall is projected to increase by 10–25% and the intensity of extreme rainfall will increase.Extreme rainfall is projected to increase the likelihood of widespread flooding before, during and after the mature monsoon season.

Drought: There is low confidence in changes of drought frequency over Central Africa.

Climate Change Impacts Already Seen in Central Africa

The multiple dimensions of poverty and wellbeing – people’s health, nutrition, education, security of food, water and shelter, and economic development – are now all affected by climate change. The natural environment is also deeply affected. Addressing climate change effectively depends on viewing climate, people and biodiversity as interlinked systems. Some impacts already seen are listed below. The factsheet includes impacts and future risks in the categories of human life and health, ecosystems and biodiversity, food systems, water for people, education, human settlements and infrastructure, migration, economies, heritage, and compound risks.

  • The increasing shifts in rainfall patterns and aridity over central Africa threatens the massive carbon store in the Congo Basin’s Cuvette Centrale peatlands, estimated at 30.6 billion tonnes of carbon.If peatland dries out, it releases greenhouse gases rather than locking them up.

  • Two-thirds of people in Africa perceive that climate conditions for agricultural production have worsened over the past ten years.Africans are disproportionately employed in climate-exposed sectors: 55–62% of the sub-Saharan workforce employed is in agriculture and 95% of cropland is rainfed.

  • Rainfall and river discharge have been extremely variable in Central Africa recently, as in the rest of Africa – between 50% above and below historic levels. This has caused deep and mostly negative impacts across water-dependent sectors: from freshwater supply to people and agriculture, to availability of water for hydropower and tourism.

  • Low rainfall, warming temperatures or extreme weather events have reduced children’s educational attainment. If bad weather reduces income in agriculture-dependent households, adults may withdraw children from school. Poor harvests or interruptions in food supply – due to extreme weather – may also lead to undernourishment in young children, which negatively affects their cognitive development and schooling potential.

Future Climate Risks in Central Africa

Some future climate risks for Central Africa include:

  • The difference between an intermediate global warming scenario of 2.5°C and a very high global warming scenario of over 4°C is projected to be tens of thousands of African lives saved each year from heat-related illness – especially in North, West, Central and parts of East Africa.

  • People living in Central Africa have a high dependency on marine fish for their nutrition.At 1.7°C global warming, reduced fish harvests could leave up to 70 million people in Africa vulnerable to iron deficiencies, up to 188 million at risk for vitamin A deficiencies, and 285 million for vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids by mid-century.

  • Central Africa may expect levels of endemic malaria to increase by 2050 under a medium-level global warming scenario. However, at higher levels of global warming, malaria prevalence is projected to decrease in parts of the region, as it becomes too hot for malaria transmission. This is projected to happen in parts of southern Central Africa by 2050 at 2.5°C global warming, and large areas of southern Central Africa by 2100, at high global warming above 4°C.Most areas in Cameroon will have almost zero malaria transmission under the highest-emissions scenario.

  • A study finds that runoff in the Congo River system may increase by up to 50% under the very highest global warming scenario, especially in the wet season, enhancing flood risks in the entire Congo basin, particularly in the central and western parts. Average river flows are expected to increase in most parts of Central Africa, with expected increases in total potential hydropower production.

  • Tens of millions of Africans are expected to migrate in response to water stress, reduced crop productivity and sea level rise associated with climate change.With 1.7°C global warming by 2050, 2.6 million people could migrate internally (within countries) in Central Africa.

Central Africa’s Potential to Adapt

As described in the factsheet, climate change is already affecting all walks of life and aspects of the natural and built environment in central Africa. Impacts are projected to become more widespread and severe, further threatening people’s lives and livelihoods, and damaging the region’s economy and ecosystems. Some of central Africa’s foremost options for adapting to climate change include:

  • Ecosystem-based adaptation uses biodiversity and ecosystem services to assist people to adapt to climate change. Sometimes it is also described as ‘nature-based solutions to climate change’. These solutions can reduce climate impacts and there is high agreement that they can be more cost-effective than traditional ‘grey’ infrastructure when a range of economic, social and environmental benefits are also accounted for.
  • In agriculture, there is considerable potential to boost farmers’ and pastoralists’ resilience to climate shocks and stresses; for example, through the introduction of drought- and pest tolerant crop and livestock varieties – but often farmers with the lowest incomes cannot afford these without assistance.Adaptation limits for crops in Africa will increasingly be reached for global warming of 2°C, and in tropical Africa may already be reached at current levels of global warming.

  • There is a need to manage the competition among different water uses – for example, among household users, farmers and energy producers (the ‘water-energy-food nexus’). Effective approaches include working at river basin level to research and quantify the future sensitivity of crops and dams to changing rainfall, runoff, evaporation and drought. Integrating these perspectives and identifying cross-cutting adaptation options works better when decision-making involves a wide range of actors affected by decisions.

  • Effective adaptation in human settlements relies on addressing climate risks throughout planning and infrastructure development and can provide net financial savings. This needs to be done in an integrated, cross-cutting way.There is scope for governments to better harness the role of the informal sector in mitigation and adaptation – through multi-level governance. This could include, for example, service providers, such as informal water and sanitation networks.

Key Investment Areas for a Climate-Resilient Central Africa

Some investment areas from the fact sheet that will make an important difference in making Central Africa climate resilient are listed below:

  • Increasing public and private finance flows by billions of dollars per year, enhancing direct access to multilateral funds, strengthening project pipelines, and shifting more finance to implementation would help realise transformative adaptation in Africa.
  • Investing in climate information services that are demand-driven and context-specific combined with climate change literacy can enable informed adaptation responses.
  • Robust legislative frameworks that develop or amend laws are an important basis for mainstreaming climate change across government and society.
  • Working across sectors and at transboundary levels can ensure that adaptation and mitigation actions in one sector don’t exacerbate risks in other sectors, and cause maladaptation.
  • Governance for climate-resilient development includes long-term planning, all-of-government approaches, transboundary cooperation and benefit-sharing, development pathways that increase adaptation and mitigation and reduce inequality, and the implementation of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs).

Suggested Citation:

Trisos, C. et al (2022) ‘Factsheet: The IPCC’s Sixth Assessment Report: Impacts, Adaptation Options and Investment Areas for a Climate-Resilient Central Africa,’ CDKN, ACDI, ODI, SouthSouthNorth, Université Nationale d’Agriculture.Accessed online at https://cdkn.org/sites/default/files/2022-03/IPCC%20Regional%20Factsheet%203_Central%20Africa_web.pdf

Authors of this factsheet:

Dr Christopher Trisos (ACDI and IPCC Coordinating Lead Author), Dr Edmond Totin (Université Nationale d’Agriculture du Benin and IPCC Coordinating Lead Author), Prof Ibidun Adelekan (University of Ibadan and IPCC Coordinating Lead Author), Dr Chris Lennard (Climate Systems Analysis Group and IPCC Lead Author), Dr Nicholas Simpson (ACDI and IPCC Lead Author), and Prof Mark New (ACDI and IPCC Coordinating Lead Author)

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