Socio-economic impact of climate change: a possible worst-case scenario if appropriate measures are not taken now

Fishery sector: The rise in sea temperatures will cause fish species to move to colder waters, which in turn will lead to a loss of revenue for tropical countries. The increased frequency of storms will have consequences for fishing trips, security, and may entail risks for the destruction of fishing boats and flooding of fishermen’s villages, as has already been reported in our sub-region, but in an even more exceptional manner. Shellfish resources, as a vital element for fishing communities, will be impacted by higher sea surface temperatures, sea-level rise and ocean acidification. Following a review of the situation in 132 countries, a number of researchers have come to the conclusion that 2/3 of the countries most vulnerable to these risks are located in Africa. Based on some forecasts, the fishery sector could lose 50% of its jobs and US $ 311 million per year.

Tourism: Predominant on the coastline, tourism will be directly affected by the evolution of climate conditions (temperatures, rainfalls, strength of the wind), aquatic parameters (surface temperatures, invasive species, including algae and jellyfishes) or coastal risks (erosion and floods). Available beach areas will be reduced as a result of erosion and sea-level rise, thereby causing significant damages to the fishing industry and fishery-dependent local economies. Additional resources will need to be set aside for the protection of the coastline and related infrastructures. These changes will generally affect the attractiveness of destinations and tourists’ preferences and require adaptation strategies from tour operators.

Farming: Over many generations, African farmers have developed a 98% rain-fed form of agriculture. Now that droughts and floods are likely to increase with climate changes, producing food in the expected quantity and quality will become problematic. Given this situation and taking into account population growth forecasts, the production will have to be increased by nearly 60% by 2050. Moreover, the recent rise in foodstuff prices can only worsen food insecurity and malnutrition risks, especially among poor urban dwellers.

Health: Climate changes will affect human health both directly and indirectly, including through heat stress, the incidence of illnesses such as malaria or meningitis, the geographic or seasonal expansion of a number of bacterium, consequences from hunger and malnutrition as well as illnesses caused by unclean water. The development of toxic algae will impact the health of ecosystems, with consequences on coastal productivity, nursery areas, biodiversity and human health through the consumption of contaminated seafood.

Coastal infrastructures and urban planning: All the capital cities and several big cities of the 7 member countries of PRCM are located on the coastline. Cities like Nouakchott, Saint Louis or Banjul are already experiencing the adverse effects of coastal erosion and sea-level rise, such as floods, water table pollution and habitat and infrastructure deterioration. These are particularly felt by most vulnerable populations. According to a study on the city of Nouakchott, the economic cost associated with the potential impact or risks of flooding is estimated at US $ 7 billion. The IPCC report mentions the case of an event that occurred in Durban, South Africa where as a result of the combination of a high sea level and a cyclone, a swell of over 14 metres surged up and created havoc estimated at US $ 100 million.

It should be noted that such risks add to difficulties with which these sectors are already confronted, including overfishing and marine pollution, political unrest or epidemic risks, all of them impacting the tourist sector. It follows that people most affected by climate change are those that already considered as most vulnerable in terms of development requirements. This is how Guinea-Bissau and Sierra Leone rank 2nd and 3rd respectively in the global ranking of countries most vulnerable to climate change. A challenge that should mobilise all PRCM partners!

 

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Cheung, WWL et al. 2013. Signature of ocean warming in global fisheries catch. Nature 497

Gates, S (2013). These Countries Face The Biggest Threats From Climate Change. Huffington Post

Lam, VWY et al. (2012). Climate Change Impacts on Fisheries in West Africa: Implications for Economic, Food and Nutritional Security.  African Journal of Marine Science

Senhoury A (2014) Aménagements portuaires et urbanisation accelerée des côtes basses sableuses d’Afrique de l’Ouest dans un contexte de pejoration climatique, cas du littoral de Nouakchott (Mauritanie). Thèse d’Etat de l’Université de Dakar. April 29, 2014, 157 pp

Weatherdon, L. et al. (2015). The Oceans 2015 Initiative, Part II: An updated understanding of the observed and projected impacts of ocean warming and acidification on marine and coastal socioeconomic activities/sectors, Studies N°03/15, IDDRI.