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Vulnerability and readiness: Africa’s double-edged climate change sword

ClimatechangeWith the recent global focus on climate change adaptation, two factors have emerged to help clarify which nations stand to lose the most as harmful emissions continue to enter the atmosphere, temperatures keep rising and weather patterns grow more unpredictable: vulnerability and readiness.

Vulnerability can be viewed as the way climate change threatens the health of a certain nation, and is usually assessed in terms of how warming impacts key areas like food and water safety, human habitat, infrastructure and ecosystems. It is determined by both a nation’s geographic location along with the stability of each of these economic and social systems within that nation.

Readiness, on the other hand, is calculated by the number and strength of the sustainable practices, alternative energy sources and emergency response services — both in terms of speed and efficiency — employed by a certain nation.

Most nations across the world possess at least one of the two factors — most developed nations possess both — which reduces climate change’s ability to compromise a nation’s health. However, some countries have neither aspect needed for adaptation, which puts them at heightened risk. Most of the African continent, full of developing nations with more pressing concerns than the long-term threat of climate change, falls into this category. Many nations have unreliable or makeshift infrastructure and human and animal habitats and therefore lack insulation to the effects of climate change (rising temperatures, droughts, flooding, heatwaves), nor do they have response services in place to prevent or mitigate the kinds of natural disasters that global warming makes possible.

Most concerning for Africa is that despite their extreme vulnerability and lack of readiness, very few steps are being taken to correct either issue. For a continent growing rapidly, both in terms of population and economy, very few proposed projects or habitats take into account the long-term impacts of climate change. Even as many nations work to update and improve infrastructure for transportation, food safety, agriculture and trade, the impact climate change could have on these sectors is either avoided or ignored entirely.

The Climate South Initiative is a brand-new summit, with an inaugural conference slated for May 28-29 in Libreville, Gabon. The stated goal of the summit, which is organized by renowned event planner and agency Richard Attias & Associates, is to take “results-oriented stance” on climate change ahead of the 2015 UN Conference of Parties, to be held in Paris in December. In short, the Climate South Initiative’s goal is to help Africa take control of its own destiny before it’s too late.

Right now, many nations in Africa, if they are considering climate change at all, they are waiting for climate financing to filter funds down to them to implement adaptation and readiness. The CSI will take that one step further, and help African politicians, business leaders and community organizers to develop their own preventative and readiness measures to deal with climate change. Through the summit, organizers are aiming to put climate change at the top of any discussions for infrastructure investment throughout the continent.

If climate change doesn’t become a priority for Africa now, it may never become one, and that’s bad news for a continent that finds itself in the eye of the storm.