Introduction

Bakary Kante
Director, Policy Development and Law
United Nations Environment Programme

United Nations Environment Programme and its collaborating centre, GRID-Arendal are pleased to present the "Vital Climate Change Graphics for Africa" as our special effort to provide easily understandable scientific information to policy makers working in Africa. This set of 25 graphics focuses on the special challenges that Africa faces due to expected long term changes in climate.

The latest report (Third Assessment Report) of the UNEP/WMO Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) notes a warming of approximately 0.7°C over most of the African continent during the 20th century based on historical records. While the exact nature of the changes in temperature or precipitation, and extreme events are not known, there is general agreement that extreme events will get worse, and trends in most variables will change in response to warming.

By the end of this century, global mean surface temperature is expected to increase between 1.5 ºC and 6ºC. Sea levels are projected to rise by 15 to 95 cm. The expected warming is greatest over the interior of semi-arid margins of the Sahara and central southern Africa. The graphics indicate that temperature rise in Africa corresponds to global temperature rise, and that adverse impacts including extremes, are spread across the diverse environments of Africa, putting a huge proportion of African continent at great risk.

These graphics also show the severity of impacts for the important sectors of water, health, food for Africa. A very sparse observational network in Africa is one of the constraints in improving Africa's understanding of local climate and makes predictions of future climate change difficult at the sub-regional to local level. For the Global Climate Observing System Surface Network (GSN) in Africa, only 26 percent of the 155 GSN stations provided greater than 50 percent of required reports during 2000.

On the other hand, there is vast local knowledge on dealing with climate variability in Africa. There is increasing interest in harnessing local strategies to cope with current climate and extremes to build adaptive capacity for future climate change. Therefore, the study of climate change at the local scale will greatly enhance Africa's efforts towards sustainable development. This requires exploring and strengthening the adaptive capacity of communities and countries that are specifically vulnerable to climate change.

The latest (third) assessment report of the IPCC states, "Clearly, adaptive capacity to deal with climate risks is closely related to sustainable development and equity. Enhancement of adaptive capacity is fundamental to sustainable development." I hope that this set of "Vital Climate Graphics for Africa (VCGA)" developed on the basis of the latest IPCC Third Assessment Report (TAR) and related peer-reviewed literature will generate discussion and knowledge in the continent with the aim to strengthen society's adaptive capacity. Previous production of similar graphics at the global level has been very successful in capturing key issues. This set follows in that tradition and is based on examples and applications that are African.

It is hoped that people from all parts of Africa will find something to resonate with, and they will join in accumulating evidence on and knowledge about climate change and its impacts.

I take this opportunity to particularly thank Dr. Paul Desanker on behalf of UNEP for leading the technical team and providing valuable information for developing these graphics. Without his contribution this publication would not have been possible. Our appreciation also goes to Mr. Svein Tveitdal and Mr. Åke Bjørke of GRID-Arendal for making these graphics possible within a very short time. These graphics are part of a series by GRID-Arendal to turn complex scientific information in easy-to-understand visuals.

For background information on these graphics I urge the readers to look at the following web sites: http://www.ipcc.ch and http://climatechange.unep.net.

Nairobi
02 August 2002
Bakary Kante
Director, Policy Development and Law
United Nations Environment Programme

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