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Africa's Climate Change 'Hotspots' Revealed in New Study

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May 06, 2014 01:31 PM EDT
Drought
A new analysis of climate change impacts in Africa offers the first details how certain impacts, such as flooding and drought, or crop loss and ecosystem damage, come to overlap, creating climate change "hotspots" throughout the continent. (Photo : Reuters)

A new analysis of climate change impacts in Africa offers the first details of how certain impacts, such as flooding and drought, or crop loss and ecosystem damage, come to overlap, creating climate change "hotspots" throughout the continent.

Writing in the journal Global Change Biology, lead study author Christoph Müller of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), reports that his team found three regions in Africa that will be the most at-risk from overlapping climate change impacts over the next few decades.

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Parts of Sudan and Ethiopia, the Central African nations surrounding Lake Victoria and the continent's southwest, including parts of South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe are considered climate change overlap hotspots Müller and his team report.

"These regions are the ones in sub-Saharan Africa where, by the end of the century, a combination of high likelihood and possibly severe climate change impacts hits territories with relatively high population and high poverty rates," the authors said in a statement.

"We tried to identify the places where climate change really hurts most," Müller said, adding that large countries like Nigeria and the tropical forests of the Congo region are likely to be much less affected.

The study authors said that while most climate change impact work in Africa as focused on one type of problem, this new research combines multiple climate and ecosystem stress points.

"It's all about risks," said Hermann Lotze-Campen, co-chair of PIK's Climate Impacts and Vulnerability research domain. "We have to live with uncertainties: we don't have perfect data about future impacts of climate change, but computer simulations can help to understand likelihoods and possible impacts. Climate change clearly threatens people's livelihoods and thus cannot be ignored. Based on likelihoods and values at stake, we have to make decisions now - as we always do when we're building a dike or for instance pass regulations on flight safety."

This study provides the people on the ground with information they can hopefully use to then decide what to do," Lotze-Campen said. "A continental scenario analysis like this one can never be a blueprint for adaptation, as it of course lacks the local expertise. Yet it can help to decide where to best put the limited resources in the countries most affected by climate change."

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