A partner of anti-poverty group Christian Aid released a report Friday that calculates for the first time the "unavoidable cost" of climate change in Africa – both in relation to finances and to people.
And according to the report, even if dramatic international action held the global temperature rise at 1.5 degrees Celsius, climate change will cost Africa at least $26.35 billion a year and leave millions more in the continent suffering from hunger, diseases, floods and water shortages.
"This report contains the best estimates yet for the costs of climate change for Africa," commented Eliot Whittington, senior climate justice adviser at Christian Aid.
"Copenhagen must deliver a fair deal to Africa," he added, referring to next month's highly anticipated gathering of world leaders. "[A]nd this means real effort to cut carbon emissions in rich countries and significant new commitments of money to help Africa deal with the problem."
Though there is still much skepticism over the exact causes of climate change, or global warming, scientists have noted that the global average temperature has risen by 0.8 degrees Celsius and that a further rise of 0.7 degrees is inevitable.
In its new study, Christian Aid's partner, the Pan-African Alliance for Climate Justice, noted that even this relatively low level of "unavoidable warming" will leave an additional 12 million people hungry in Africa, damage crop yields, increase the numbers suffering Malaria and diarrhea by up to 16 percent and cause the number of people killed in floods to more than double.
If warming is allowed to reach the higher 2 degree limit that European countries have indicated they are prepared to accept, then the costs to Africa would double, the group warned in the report, released Friday in Nairobi.
And without urgent action to limit climate change, the costs are likely to be significantly worse, added Christian Aid. Some scientists are now suggesting that the world is likely to face warming of more than 4 degrees Celsius by 2100 or sooner.
The report suggests that by 2030, Africa will need a minimum of $10 billion a year to help its people try to cope with the effects of climate change, and possibly several times this amount.
" African countries are among those that have done the least to contribute to climate change and that will be the most affected," commented Whittington.
"Rich countries need to face up to their responsibility and pay their climate debt," added PACJA coordinator Mithika Mwenda.
In less than two weeks, national government delegations who agreed to shape an ambitious international response to climate change in 2007 will be meeting to agree on a post-2012 climate agreement that will replace the current Kyoto Protocol.
According to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 2009 is a crucial year in the international effort to address climate change as some scientists say industrialized nations must cut emissions by 25 to 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2020 to prevent climate disasters, such as coastal flooding from rising sea levels, severe weather events, and variations in rainfall and temperatures that will affect agriculture and wipe out species of plants and animals.
Under the current deal, 37 industrial countries are required to cut emissions a total 5 percent from 1990 by 2012. Based on the current declarations from wealthy countries, the World Wildlife Fund for Nature estimates the total emissions cut will amount to 10 percent by 2020.
Though many have been emphasizing the need to cut emissions, the world – especially the United States – remains divided over the causes of the global warming and even whether the earth is warming at all.
While 56 percent of global warming believers in the United States, for example, say humans are to blame for climate change, 34 percent would argue that global warming is caused naturally by changes such as alternations in the Earth's orbit and solar energy and solar wind output, according a recent Pew survey.
Despite widespread skepticism of global warming claims, the survey still found more support than opposition for a policy to set limits on carbon emissions.
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is slated for Dec. 7-18.
On the Web:
Full report on "The Economic Cost of Climate Change in Africa" at christianaid.org.uk.