These are the people in Africa who are getting most screwed by climate change

A day after Kenya’s president called for a “war” to deal with climate change, civil society advocates and environmentalists in Ghana called for policymakers to do the same. For the people living along the northern coast of Ghana, this climate change problem is not just a rhetorical concern, it’s their daily life.

According to Pew, Ghana’s coastal megacity of Accra is flooding more and more, sometimes trapped behind man-made natural barriers that threaten the whole community. In Nigeria, lack of funding has prevented the delta region from adapting to global warming. And the people of Anzisha in South Africa are not living under the threat of water level surges, but a regular loss of life and property every year, despite the increase in flooding in the country.

These activists share a daunting common thread: They believe that both the economic and social consequences of climate change are preventing the progress of their countries.

Ghanaian government policy-makers have expressed a variety of plans to address the flooding, from an infrastructure strategy to the creation of a coastal floodplain and coastal wetlands. This solution is especially relevant now, because the level of flooding along much of the coastline in the country has been increasing for many years now, according to Pew’s recent research in Accra.

The rising cost of adapting to climate change in Ghana, called “climate-change induced human suffering,” has been a major contributor to a general rise in the population’s extreme poverty. Pew’s data show that more than 40 percent of Ghanaians are living in extreme poverty.

Even more concerning, the rising cost of adaptation has had a corresponding increase in suicide rates. “We are thinking of our own demise and how to prepare ourselves,” said one fisherman who cannot afford to pay for rebuilding or upgrading his home. The Ghanaian team responsible for Pew’s research said that climate change is a daily trauma for the Ghanaian people.

In Ghana’s flood prone areas, there is a culture of subsistence culture. People cannot afford to pay for infrastructure improvements. The whole idea of investing in infrastructure is often at odds with the traditional view that resources should not be controlled by private companies, the way it is in a well-off society. For people like these fishermen and their entire communities, poverty is inextricably linked to climate change. They have an acute sense of their vulnerability to rising seas, and the attacks it has already caused.

In Nigeria, the so-called Bonny delta, the main economic and food production region of the country, is experiencing more frequent but bigger flood events, according to Marco Gierisch, Head of the Climate Change Policy Program at the German Marshall Fund. The government has introduced an ambitious adaptation plan which would put in place anti-flood barriers, and government officials have spoken of increasing drilling to reduce the vulnerability of Nigeria’s oil fields.

All of these failures are just the tip of the iceberg, because for Ghana, the future is not in the mining, but in the adaptation. With a population currently growing at about 2 percent each year, it will be a matter of decades before the entire society will have to come to terms with climate change, leaving it vulnerable to a “shock” that could cause a destabilization that would affect all the governments in this region.

In Nigeria, the people facing rising tides and an increased number of floods are the ones who have no chance of participating in their own adaptation: the delta farmers. In Ghana, it is the least skilled fishermen and women who are experiencing the flooding, which will ultimately come to their streets and their homes.

In South Africa, though, it is not the farmers who are mostly vulnerable, but rather the laborers who are routinely being moved off their ancestral lands. Recently, a restaurant where half of the patrons have worked for the past 30 years on the property being flooded relocated itself, without consulting its laborers. This transfer would mean higher rents and increased living costs for its current residents.

Accra and Lagos Island have similar environmental problems. Environmental charities are doing great work to prevent African countries from succumbing to the same kinds of financial and social hazards experienced in areas of America that were not immune to global warming. But in the long run, governments can only ensure that their citizens are protected from tragedy if their citizens are empowered to find solutions to the problem.

Leave a Comment