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Global Warming Has Already Raised The Risk Of More Severe Droughts In Cape Town

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Global Warming Has Already Raised The Risk Of More Severe Droughts In Cape Town

 

Mark New, University of Cape Town; Friederike Otto, University of Oxford, and Piotr Wolski, University of Cape Town

Between 2015 and 2017 South Africa’s South Western Cape region experienced three of its lowest rainfall years on record. This led to the progressive depletion of water supply reservoirs and by the summer of 2017/18 there was a real danger that – without drastic reductions in water use – the region, and especially the city of Cape Town, would run out of water.

Droughts close to this magnitude have occurred in the past (for example in the late 1920s, early 1970s, and 2003 to 2004) and led to water shortages in Cape Town. But are they getting worse?

The reliable yield of the South Western Cape water system has, until now, been calculated under the assumption of a stationary climate. This is the idea that past rainfall can be used to estimate present day as well as future rainfall, and then also water system yields. A water resource model is used to estimate the frequency of failure under all the known past rainfall conditions – in the case of this region, the last 80 or so years. The water system is then designed to be fairly reliable. The supply system for Cape Town and surround areas was designed to maintain supply without imposing water restrictions 98% of the time, or – on average – 49 out of every 50 years.

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It’s known that the climate is going to change in the future, as a succession of international scientific assessments have shown. And many water resource planners are taking climate change into account when upgrading existing or designing new water supply systems.

But has this changing global climate already altered the risk of droughts like the one Cape Town just experienced?

We assessed this in a recently published analysis. Using a range of modelling approaches, we first estimated the frequency and intensity of three-year rainfall amounts over the South Western Cape in a world without human-induced warming of the climate.

We then compared this to drought risk in the world we actually live in, where greenhouse gases and other pollutants have warmed the planet by about one degree.

A threefold increase in drought risk

The results from different models vary but they all show that the risk of drought has increased substantially because of global warming. Our best estimate is that the risk of a drought of this size has increased by a factor of just over three (see graph).

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This means that the key assumption of a stable climate, which underpins the design of the water supply system, has been undermined by climate change, at least for the South Western Cape region.

The change in risk of a drought like the one just experienced in Cape Town that is attributable to human influence on climate. The Risk Ratio (RR) is the likelihood of this drought today compared to in world without global warming. An RR greater than 1.0 indicates the risk has increased. For each modelling approach, the best estimate for the RR (the black line) and 95% confidence range (coloured bar) are shown. The synthesis provides the best estimate and confidence range across all modelling approaches, indicating a RR of 3.32, or just over a threefold increase in risk.

Our analysis shows that what has been predicted to happen in Southern Africa under changing climate in the future is already happening, with more dry periods today than, say, 20 or 50 years ago. And so, the water resource system is stressed more frequently and more strongly than had been anticipated.

In addition to assessing current risk, our analysis also showed that with a further doubling of global warming over today from 1.0 to 2.0 degrees – likely to happen sometime in the next 50 years – there is a further threefold increase in risk of severe drought.

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This means that droughts which the current water resource system is designed to survive will occur much more frequently. Without adaptation in water supply and demand, events like the 2017-2018 water shortage could occur once every 15 years, on average, compared to the expected once every 50 years.

It’s been suggested that the Cape Town water crisis was largely because of an erosion of water management capability in South Africa.

But we show that another culprit is exacerbating the problem – climate change. Organisations such as Department of Water and Sanitation at the national level, and catchment management agencies at local and regional level, who are responsible for working towards a more resilient water resource system for the future need to do better than in the past and include estimates of the evolving drought risk. Otherwise they’ll always be underestimating this risk as climate change progresses into the future.

Climate change projections are often taken into account when designing future water supply systems and other infrastructure. What Cape Town’s drought teaches us is that climate change is not a thing of a distant future: it is happening already and impacts us today. We are running out of time to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and more importantly, we can no longer postpone taking precautionary and adaptive actions.The Conversation

Mark New, Director, African Climate and Development Initiative, University of Cape Town; Friederike Otto, Deputy Director and Senior Researcher, Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford, and Piotr Wolski, Senior Researcher in Hydro-Climatology, University of Cape Town

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

African News

France Policies In Africa Is Creating Poverty – Italy’s Deputy PM

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France Policies In Africa Is Creating Poverty - Italy's Deputy PM

Italy`s Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio has reiterated on Monday that France’s policies in Africa were creating poverty and causing migration.  France had summoned the Italian ambassador to Paris to protest his assertions.

Di Maio told reporters, that France is one of those countries that by printing money for 14 African states, prevents their economic development and contributes to the fact that the refugees, leave and then die in the sea or arrive on western coasts.

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Di Maio was referring to the CFA Franc, a currency used in 14 west and central African nations, which is tied to the euro at a fixed exchange rate, with the peg guaranteed by France.

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He called on the European Union to “address the question of the decolonisation of Africa, accusing France of still treating a number of African countries as vassal states.

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South Africa’s President Calls For Lifting Of Sanctions On Zimbabwe

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S.African President Calls For Lifting Of Sanctions On Zimbabwe

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has called for sanctions against Zimbabwe to be lifted. He said on Tuesday, his government was in discussions with Harare about how best to help.

He added that, Zimbabwe’s situation was a challenge for the whole of Africa and he planned to meet Zimbabwe president- Emmerson Mnangagwa.

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Meanwhile Mnangagwa has promised on Tuesday to investigate violence against civilians during protests and punish any misconduct by security forces.

The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission (ZHRC) said on Tuesday security forces instigated systematic torture of residents. It says, the level of force used on those who died or injured and supported by medical reports pointed to police brutality.

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Police say three people died during violent demonstrations last week, but human rights groups say at least a dozen were killed.

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African News

Uganda: Musicians Must Register And Obtain Licence Before They Release Songs – Govt

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Uganda: Musicians Must Register And Obtain Licence Before They Release Songs - Govt

Uganda’s government is proposing regulations for new songs. Junior Minister for Gender, Labour And Social Development, Peace Mutuuzo, said in an interview that the new regulations to govern the music and entertainment industry were already drafted and expected to be passed by cabinet by March. Adding that musicians and other artists will also have to register with the government and obtain a practising licence which can be revoked for a range of violations.

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A list of restrictions including requiring artists to submit to authorities, lyrics for songs and scripts for film and stage performances to be vetted. The minister said, content deemed to contain offensive language, to be lewd or plagiarised, will be censured. Musicians will also have to seek government permission to perform outside Uganda.

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Critics say the regulation is aimed at discouraging negative comments about the authorities who are rattled by the popularity of pop Star Bobi Wine and other critical voices in the entertainment industry.

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