A Status Quo, Vulnerability and Adaptation Assessment of the Physical and Socio-Economic Effects of Climate Change in the Western Cape

"Clear evidence of the early signs of anthropogenic climate change are evident in the temperature record in the Western Cape, and that rainfall trends, though more variable, also suggest some shifts in the “normal” climate regime. We suggest further research is needed on assessing the most appropriate ways of improving regional forecasts of climate change. However, projections of future winter drying are of sufficient concern, supported as they are by a variety of modelling approaches, to suggest an urgent and focussed assessment of the implications for the Western Cape as a whole. The lessons learned from the impacts of recent floods and drought show clearly the vulnerability of the agricultural and infrastructure sectors, but show how poorly impacts on poor communities are reflected in economic terms. Given that an increase in temperature alone is likely to cause additional stress on water resources, we re-iterate here that the water resources sector is possibly the most critical sector in the Western Cape, and even without climate change impacts, the increase in human population and the needs of agriculture will place an insurmountable burden on the current sources in the very near future. Climate change will exacerbate that burden inexorably into the future. It is clear then that the identification and establishment of alternative water resources is essential for the Western Cape in general, and the Cape Town Metropole in particular. At the same time, efficient demand-side management, especially in the agricultural sector, would greatly alleviate the competing needs for this resource, and might even allow an increase in the “ecological reserve” that would allow ecosystems and biodiversity associated with local rivers to be re-invigorated."