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Africa Could Face Weather Extremes Due to Climate Change

Many people and groups are reacting to a new report that says people are “most likely” to blame for global warming. Among them is the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Madeleen Helmer is the head of the federation’s climate center, located at The Hague. She says the findings of the IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, are not a surprise. She told VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua there’s concern over possible effects on humanitarian operations.

“We’re particularly concerned about the report expecting more weather extremes. And, in fact for the first time…we are also more confident about the extremes we’ve already observed are likely to be linked to climate change,” she says. She adds that most of the extremes of the last decade of the 20th Century were probably linked to climate change and will most likely increase in the 21st Century.

As for affecting humanitarian operations, Helmer says, “We know…that it’s particularly the poorest people who are going to be hit hardest. We’re very concerned and we need to adjust our work to prepare for this new risk.”

Asked how climate change might affect Africa in the coming years, she says, “In a few months time, a more specific report will come out from the IPCC dealing with the impact…Africa is the most vulnerable to the impact of climate change…their economies are far more dependent on weather-related factors than other continents are. Infrastructure is less developed, so people are more vulnerable. Poverty of course is a key problem and a combination of other risks – HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, conflicts. And an addition of more weather extremes makes many people in the countries very vulnerable for these risks.”

Helmer says governments, communities, aid agencies and donors must be prepared for a much wider range of weathers extremes, both droughts and floods, for example, within a few months of each other. She says there also needs to be better communication among all the parties about the changing weather patterns and education of communities about the risks they face.