Africa’s climate, more than that of any other continent, is generally uniform. That’s the result of the position of the continent in the tropical zone, the impact of cool ocean currents, and the absence of mountain chains serving as climatic barriers.
But across Africa, the landscape is changing. The snowy caps of Mount Kilimanjaro are melting and the shorelines of lakes Chad, Tanganyika and Victoria are receding. The once mighty Lake Chad is half the size it was 35 years ago. These and many other changes have led to unreliable farming seasons and low water supplies – a serious problem for a continent almost entirely dependent on rain for its agriculture.
Despite the fact that Africans have contributed the least to climate change caused by humans, there are widespread fears that Africa will be the worst hit. And most experts agree that Africa is the most vulnerable continent and the least able to adapt to the effects of climate change. Many scientists agree that Africa’s best course of action is to reduce their energy consumption and take other steps to protect the environment.
Because of all these concerns, African representatives at the U.N.-sponsored climate conference in Bali, Indonesia, pressed for international aid. They say Africa needs help to prepare for what experts agree could be a major change in the environment and in the people’s way of life.
In part one of our five-part series on Africa and climate change, reporter Chinedu Offor spoke with Nigeria’s minister of environment, Halima Tayo-Alao, the head of the African group at the 13th session of the climate conference. He asked her about the reaction of the international community to Africa’s request for help in fighting the effects of climate change. She says the continent is not getting the assistance it needs to adapt to new technology. “Africa as a continent is very vulnerable to the effects of the climate change. It has been said over and over again, Africa also has the least capacity and ability to cope with the problems of climate change. It is, however, frustrating that at negotiating sessions there are a few of the blocks that we could not get through.”