Heatwaves, floods, droughts lie in Africa's future, study shows

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The continent could warm by an average of 2 to 6 degrees celsius by the end of this century.
The continent could warm by an average of 2 to 6 degrees celsius by the end of this century.

Africa faces a future of heat waves, droughts and floods and could lose many of its endemic species as a result of climate change, a Greenpeace study showed.

The continent could warm by an average of 2 to 6 degrees celsius by the end of this century, largely as a result of warning caused by man-made greenhouse gas emissions, Greenpeace Research Laboratories said in a report released on Monday.

That will result in more frequent heat waves across the continent, less rain in southern and northern Africa and more precipitation in central and East Africa. With over half the world’s poor living on the continent, it is expected to be among the world's hardest hit regions by climate change as people have few resources to adjust and cope.

"Science shows there is very little that is natural in the disasters striking our continent," Greenpeace Africa programme director Melitta Steele said in a statement.

Depending on how hot it gets, the inhabitants of Lagos, Abidjan, Luanda and Kinshasa - four of the continent’s biggest cities - could begin experiencing heat stress as a result of periods of elevated temperatures, the study said. Currently only Khartoum in Sudan is in danger from this phenomenon, which sees people’s core temperature rise due to external factors.

Some projections show South Africa's unique Cape Floral region, accounting for one-fifth of the continent's plant biodiversity, could lose more than a third of its 5 682 plant species, the report said. Ethiopia's Bale mountains could also see many of its plant species disappear.

Still, other studies project less severe temperature rises. The World Meteorological Organization predicted a 2 degrees celsius rise in temperature by 2100 from pre-industrial times in its first report on climate in Africa released last month.

"It is very clear that global heating acts as a threat multiplier, exacerbating existing vulnerabilities such as poverty and inequality by driving extreme weather events," Greenpeace said in the report. "The African continent is highly vulnerable to the impacts of global heating."

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