The IPCC's Fifth Assessment Report: What's in it for Africa? Executive Summary

The Fifth Assessment Report of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) finds, beyond reasonable doubt, that the Earth’s climate is warming. Climate change will have widespread impacts on African society and Africans’ interaction with the natural environment. Since the 1950s, the rate of global warming has been unprecedented compared to previous decades and millennia. The Fifth Assessment Report presents a long list of changes that scientists have observed around the world. Since the mid-19th century, the average increase in the temperature of the Earth’s surface has been 0.85 degrees Centigrade(°C). Sea levels have risen faster than at any time during the previous two millennia. In many regions, including Africa, changing rainfall or melting snow and ice are altering freshwater systems, affecting the quantity and quality of water available. The IPCC finds that there is 95% scientific certainty that human activity, by increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century. The impacts of climate change will affect food security, water availability and human health in Africa significantly. The following pages explore these impacts in more depth. Given the interdependence between countries in today’s world, the impacts of climate change on resources or commodities in one place will have far-reaching effects on prices, supply chains, trade, investment and political relations in other places. Thus, climate change will progressively threaten economic growth and human security.