In the next 10 years, Gauteng is more and more likely to experience “zero-days”-but as the earth’s temperature rises, the drying up of taps in the economic heartland is not the only major risk facing South Africa. A recent assessment conducted by climatologists at the University of Witwatersrand’s Global Change Institute (GCI) showed that if global warming continues unabated, the faucet in Gauteng will be in the 2030s or 2040s. At that time, the possibility of drying up will increase. But water scarcity is not the only risk.
Food security is in danger. Droughts have led to the collapse of corn and cattle farming, tropical cyclones have formed in Richards Bay, and as experienced by Mozambique, local climatologists have also predicted severe heat waves that could cause many deaths. All three provinces of Cape Province have fallen into the worst drought in a century, the severity and scale of which have been deemed worthy of being classified as a national disaster.
Now, climatologists say Gauteng may also face a situation similar to the situation faced by Cape Town in 2018, when the water tap was closed for 90 days. The GCI scientists’ assessments are consistent with the recent Working Group 1 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). It shows that the combination of accelerated drying and warming trends throughout Southern Africa is increasing the possibility of millions of people facing severe water shortages, which will trigger a series of devastating events that undermine human health and safety. Professor Francois Engelbrecht, Professor of Climatology at the Wits Institute for Global Change and the lead author of the IPCC Working Group 1’s recent report, told DM168: “I think that due to climate change, the biggest risk we face is climate change in the near future. The future is mine. It means the next 10 years-a zero-day drought in Gauteng.”
A recent IPCC report stated that droughts will become more frequent when global warming is 1.5°C, and will increase proportionally thereafter. The IPCC has previously identified a 1.5°C increase in global average temperature as the tipping point of the climate crisis. It said that after reaching this critical point, we can expect “extreme temperature warming… frequency, intensity, and/or heavy precipitation… and droughts to increase in intensity or frequency”. Engelbrecht’s assessment was released a few days after Barbara Creecy, Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and Environment, responded to the release of the IPCC report. She said: “Maintaining global temperature at 1.5ºC by the end of the 21st century will require global-scale negative emissions The second half of the century…”
Engelbrecht, who specializes in numerical climate model development and regional climate modeling, said: “We are so vulnerable because we are naturally a warm and dry country with limited water resources and sporadic aridity. Now, this area has become very warm and generally dry. When warm and dry areas become warmer and drier, the options for adaptation are very limited.” As countries continue to emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere on a large scale, causing the global average temperature to rise steadily, “the circulation in the southern hemisphere has changed. What happened is that in a warming world, a very large high-pressure system is formed. More frequently and more intensely in the interior of southern Africa than in the past,” he explained. These increasingly frequent and intense high-pressure systems are important in the context of South Africa because they have an impact on countries that are already dry.
With information from: https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2021-08-15-south-africa-is-on-the-brink-of-a-global-heating-disaster/