The Republic of South Africa is situated in the southernmost part of the African continent. Lying within a drought belt, coupled with an economy largely dependent on climate-sensitive sectors, the potential changes in climate may have significant impacts on the South African society and economy. Some of South Africa’s adaptation projects include: public awareness programmes and measures to reduce the incidence of both malaria and schistosomiasis.
The climate of South Africa is typically warm with temperatures ranging between 0°C and 35°C. Rainfall patterns fluctuate with a mean rainfall of only 464 mm compared to a world average of 857 mm. Higher temperatures and a reduction in rainfall expected as a result of climate change will reduce already depleted water resources, contributing to an increasing number of droughts in the country. South Africa’s development is highly dependent on climate-sensitive sectors such as agriculture and forestry. Increases in temperature and reductions in rainfall threaten the productivity of these sectors. Tourism is another key driver of South Africa’s economic growth. Ranked third in the world in terms of biological diversity, desertification caused by a hotter drier climate could potentially reduce biodiversity, threatening the tourism industry. Additionally, increases in sea temperature could alter migratory patterns of marine fisheries and increase the occurrence of harmful algal blooms causing mass mortality of fish, shellfish, marine mammals, seabirds and other animals.
Diseases such as malaria and schistosomiasis are prevalent in South Africa. Temperature increases and changes in rainfall patterns could potentially extend the areas prone to these diseases, exacerbating the already high prevalence of both malaria and schistosomiasis in the country.
The following section is found in the Meister Consultants Group study: Floating Houses and Mosquito Nets: Emerging Climate Change Adaptation Strategies Around the World.
Strategy and Actors
South Africa is more advanced than other African countries regarding the development of a national adaptation strategy. In 1997, the need for a strategic approach to adaptation was acknowledged during the ratification process of the UNFCCC. The National Committee on Climate Change (NCCC), founded in 1994 as an advisory body, was tasked with coordinating the development of a white paper on climate change for the government. However, consultation with different stakeholders revealed that an integrated national climate strategy had to be developed. Therefore, instead of a white paper, the Climate Change Response Strategy was passed in September 2004. It is the most important strategic document on the impacts of climate change in South Africa, dealing with both climate change mitigation and adaptation. Important topics of the strategy are health, agriculture, biodiversity, water, and grassland. Adaptation measures in the climate change strategy are also regarded as a contribution to the broader goals of poverty reduction and job creation.156
The Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism (DEAT) directs the implementation of the strategy. The Department of Minerals and Energy (DME) plays an important role as well. Six other ministries (foreign affairs, trade and industry, water and forestry, housing, transport, culture and research) are involved through the National Committee on Climate Change, on which local governments, companies, unions and NGOs are also represented. The committee advises the DEAT regarding issues related to global warming.
The Climate Change Response Strategy puts climate change adaptation in the context of South Africa’s overall development efforts. It emphasizes that many adaptation measures, for example in the health sector, are useful independent of the exact consequences of climate change. The overreaching goal of adaptation is the reduction of South Africa’s vulnerability to climate change. The strategy defines areas where adaptation is necessary, as well as outlining possible adaptation measures.
For the health sector, the strategy calls for the extension of health protection and health promotion measures. One concern is that climate change will undo progress that has been reached in the health sector, for example in the area of access to drinking water. This would require additional efforts in the health sector. One example is the increased surveillance and monitoring of areas that are prone to diseases like malaria and schistosomiasis (bilharzia). In addition, the response strategy requires an extension of current programs that provide households with preventive tools such as mosquito nets.
For the water sector, the strategy calls for water management as well as contingency planning. The efficient use of water will be a key challenge for the future of South Africa, even though the country already has a sophisticated water management system. An important foundation is the National Water Act, which was adopted in 1998. The act defines water as a public good and establishes rules for water extraction by different user groups.158 As a result, South Africa has a stronger adaptive capacity in the water sector than other states in Africa, but further measures will be necessary.159 The strategy outlines goals for the improvement of monitoring systems, strategic resource management, flexibility in water use allocations, demand management, conservation measures, contingency planning for extreme events, and the improvement of infrastructure.
Source: Dr. Hans-Peter Meister, I. K., Martina Richwein, Wilson Rickerson, Chad Laurent. Additional contributors: Jeff Snell, Elisa Burchert, Florian Lux. (2009). Floating Houses and Mosquito Nets: Emerging Climate Change Adaptation Strategies Around the World. Boston: Meister Consultants Group. p. 62-63.
For more detailed information and references refer to Floating Houses - Full Report.