Home Climate Change Life beyond 1.5C: More extreme weather disasters expected in 2024

Life beyond 1.5C: More extreme weather disasters expected in 2024

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Scientists have warned that 2024 is even likely to be warmer, meaning that the most vulnerable parts of the world such as Africa are likely to face even more extreme weather-related disasters
Scientists have warned that 2024 is even likely to be warmer, meaning that the most vulnerable parts of the world such as Africa are likely to face even more extreme weather-related disasters

In 2023, the world breached the 1.5C global warming across the entire year, according to data from the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service. The 2015 Paris Agreement’s target was to keep global temperature levels within 1.5C – seen as crucial to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

Global temperatures began to rise above 1.5C mainly in the second half of 2023 largely due to El Nino (though it can typically contribute no more than 0.2C), which has continued into 2024. The EU’s climate service data shows that global warming reached 1.52C between February 2023 and January 2024.

“The biggest problem is that the developed countries – which are historically responsible for carbon emissions that drive global warming – did not originally design their energy sector to accommodate renewable energy,” said Christine Nakimwero, a Ugandan environmentalist who also serves as the Kiboga district woman MP and Uganda’s shadow minister for environment.

“So, they are having a hard time changing their infrastructure to accommodate renewables and that’s why their emissions keep going up,” she added.

In Uganda, floods and mudslides killed at least 1,066, while about 120 deaths were recorded in Kenya when severe floods caused by El Nino swept through the country in November
In Uganda, floods and mudslides killed at least 1,066, while about 120 deaths were recorded in Kenya when severe floods caused by El Nino swept through the country in November

Africa, which contributes only about 2-3 per cent of global carbon emissions, is the region that is affected most disproportionately. In 2023, at least 15,700 people in Africa lost their lives due to extreme weather events – a huge jump from the 4,000 people killed in climate-related disasters in 2022 – according to a report by the UK’s Carbon Brief.

The most unprecedented extreme weather event was the floods in Libya that killed more than 11,300 people. Flash floods killed more than 3,000 people in Rwanda and the DR Congo while 860 people lost their lives when Cyclone Freddy swept through Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Reunion Island.

In Uganda, floods and mudslides killed at least 1,066, while about 120 deaths were recorded in Kenya when severe floods caused by El Nino swept through the country in November.

In the Horn of Africa – Djibouti, Ethiopia, northern Kenya, South Sudan and Somalia – at least 34 million people faced food insecurity due to prolonged droughts while scores died from hunger.

Achilles Byaruhanga, the executive director of Nature Uganda, said that the situation will continue to deteriorate because governments are not committed to tackling climate change.

“The biggest challenge is that many countries go to COPs and have a lot of discussions, but it seems these discussions remain in those rooms. Many countries are not meeting their targets – Nationally Determined Contributions – and promises of funding by the developed world to developing countries have not been met,” he said.

“The COPs are just talking shops, after the meetings everything remains as usual. In Uganda, it’s simply rhetoric. Today you’ll hear the president talking about how we must protect wetlands and the next day you’ll see him launching a Chinese factory constructed in a wetland,” Mr Byaruhanga added.  

More disasters expected in 2024

A 2018 report by the United Nations indicated that extreme weather disasters, such as prolonged droughts, floods and heatwaves, would intensify if global warming hit 2C, increasing the risks of potentially irreversible changes.

Scientists have warned that 2024 is even likely to be warmer, meaning that the most vulnerable parts of the world such as Africa are likely to face even more extreme weather-related disasters.

In Kenya, for instance, global climate forecasts show that there is an 80 per cent chance that El Nino will continue during the March to May rains, and flooding is likely to occur in the northern and eastern parts of the country. 

Scientists have warned that 2024 is even likely to be warmer, meaning that the most vulnerable parts of the world such as Africa are likely to face even more extreme weather-related disasters
Scientists have warned that 2024 is even likely to be warmer, meaning that the most vulnerable parts of the world such as Africa are likely to face even more extreme weather-related disasters

In Uganda, Ms Nakimwero said that disasters will continue to increase, especially due to climate-induced immigrations that are increasingly exerting more pressure on the country’s natural resources and the continued destruction of natural carbon sinks such as wetlands and forests.

“Even though countries in the global south emit less carbon, there is a lot of destruction of the environment going on. When we destroy our wetlands and forests, we expose ourselves to the emissions from the developed world and the subsequent impacts of climate change. We have to safeguard our ecosystems jealously, otherwise climate change will continue to cause more deaths and destruction of our agriculture and health systems,” she said.

When El Nino conditions come to an end, global temperatures are expected to stabilise, and Ms Nakimwero is optimistic global warming can still be limited to within 1.5C if the global north commit to reduction of carbon emissions and the global south commit to protecting natural ecosystems.

Lack of preparedness

Africa has the lowest density of weather stations in the world, meaning that the continent doesn’t have enough weather data to predict weather patterns more accurately and prepare for extreme weather events.

“The picture is terrible and yet we’re not prepared at all. The disasters are here and we have already tasted their impacts, such as reduced food production and fatal floods and mudslides. Our governments should be sounding the alarm to prepare citizens for what’s to come,” said Martin Semakula, an environmentalist based in Kampala.

“Developed countries also need to deliver on their loss and damage funds they’ve been promising the global south for years, but our governments also need to show commitment in investing in adaptation measures,” he added.

According to the United Nations’ World Economic Situations and Prospects 2024 report, climate finance flows to Africa fall far short of the continent’s needs, with an annual financing gap of about $120 billion.

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