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21 May 2019

Climate change is SA’s ‘biggest problem’

Thabiso Goba (Daily News) Picture: Extinction Rebellion climate change march on International Mothers' Day in London in this file picture: Photo: Reuters / Simon Dawson

Durban – CLIMATE change represents South Africa’s most urgent problem, according to a report published by the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA).

The Draft National Climate Change Adaptation Strategy suggests that extreme weather temperatures would continue to ravage the country if climate change was not addressed.

“There is evidence that extreme weather events in South Africa are increasing, with heatwave conditions found to be more likely, dry spell durations lengthening slightly and rainfall intensity increasing,” the report states.

“Climate zones across the country are already shifting, ecosystems and landscapes are being degraded, veld fires are becoming more frequent, and overused natural terrestrial and marine systems are under stress.”

The report was published in the government gazette as a draft bill and is under a public participation process. The report comes on the back of the record heavy rainfalls in KwaZulu- Natal which killed at least 85 people and left a trail of debris in the ocean. Many experts ascribed the destruction to a number of things, including poor drainage systems, infrastructure being built on unsuitable land and climate change.

The pattern of heavy rains, however, suggested that the deeper problem was climate change, said David Hallowes, a researcher at environmental justice NGO groundWork. Hallowes said while it was good that the bill acknowledged the threat of climate change, it was not wide-ranging enough. He said the focus should be more on mitigating the country’s massive toxic legacy of fossil fuels rather than trying to adapt to it.

“We’re more concerned with the contradiction that exists in the DEA,” he said. “The DEA is the leading supporter of Operation Phakisa. There are currently seismic ships exploring for oil in the ocean and if they find it, that won’t be good for mitigation.”

Fanele Magwaza, a climate justice activist and secretary-general of SA Youth for Climate Change, said there was a disturbing lack of policy towards fighting climate change. “Strategies and policies need to be updated and renewed to fit a climate change justice agenda. It’s our future at stake.”