Call to action after devastating ‘best case scenario’…


“We are shouting as loud as possible. This is a serious, present and clear threat – but we can significantly reduce the risk,” said Andrew Muir, the author of a new scenario on the impact of climate change in Nelson Mandela Bay, the largest Eastern Cape Metro.

“It is important to move forward with hope and implement the actions that are within our control.”

Muir, recognized in 2012 by the World Economic Forum for his work in social entrepreneurship, is a well-known conservationist in South Africa. He is the CEO of Wilderness Foundation Africa and Wilderness Foundation Global, as well as former President of the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber.

Explaining why they asked Muir to compile a climate change impact assessment, chamber speaker Loyiso Dotwana said they believed the impact of climate change on the region would be similar to that of the region. Covid-19 pandemic.

“Companies need to take a more proactive approach. We need to change quickly,” Dotwana said. “Given the enormity of the impact, this should be a province-wide initiative.”

Muir said he was not an expert on climate change but had access to experts when developing the latest scenario for the subway. He is an advisor to the World Economic Forum and is part of some of its working teams.

The Nelson Mandela Bay Metro, combining the town of Gqeberha and the towns of Uitenhage and Despatch, is the largest metro in the province and is home to two ports – Port Elizabeth Port and Ngqura Deep Water Port.

According to the last report from the Eastern Cape Socio-Economic Advisory Council, released on January 26, 2022, the provincial economy contracted by 6.9% in the third quarter of 2021.

The Eastern Cape currently has an average unemployment rate of 47.4% and Nelson Mandela Bay saw an increase in unemployment during the third quarter of 2021, from 39.8% to 40.7%.

Dolphins and whales will be significantly threatened in Algoa Bay, Eastern Cape, due to climate change. (Photo: Deon Ferreira)
Flooding in low lying areas of Nelson Mandela Bay, Eastern Cape, such as Missionvale, is set to become more frequent and severe. (File photo: Deon Ferreira)

The N2 highway skirts the sea in parts of Nelson Mandela Bay and Muir said the severity of the storm surges could be such that the road would eventually have to be repositioned.

He said the best-case scenario for the metro is 1.5℃ global warming by 2040 given the current trajectory, but overall the temperature increase is currently 1.1℃. He added that it could be much higher by 2040 and, given its geography, sub-Saharan Africa will experience a higher increase in temperatures.

“I based my analysis on a best-case scenario,” Muir said. “The worst-case scenario is just depressing,” he said.

Due to global warming, he said, there will be more periods of extreme drought and extreme heat, and more frequent and intense weather events, with the past nine years being the hottest on record. .

Muir said Nelson Mandela Bay remains one of the most segregated metros in the country and as a result there would be a disproportionate impact on poorer communities.

“Water will become increasingly unavailable,” he warned.

“Our greatest threat to coastal areas will come from the ocean.” This, he added, is a threat that ripples through neighboring towns along the Eastern Cape coast.

“Our biggest storm surges get worse every year,” Muir said, adding that a rise of a few millimeters in the ocean will quickly become a few feet during a storm surge.

Nelson Mandela Bay, he explained, faces a particular challenge. Although it is only the fifth largest metro, it is the second in terms of urban sprawl.

“A massive environmental event (like a storm or flood) will cause significant and widespread damage. There will be no funds to replace infrastructure continually damaged by extreme events. This will have a compound effect and is a cause for very serious concern.

The impact of climate change on the poorest communities in Nelson Mandela Bay, Eastern Cape, will be very harsh and cause significant anguish. (File photo: Deon Ferreira)
Dunes of Sardinia Bay at Nelson Mandela Bay, Eastern Cape. (Photo: Deon Ferreira)

He predicts that residents will have to queue for water from tankers as tap water will become increasingly unavailable. “We are already seeing it in India.”

Muir mentioned recent storm damage in the town of Addo in the Eastern Cape, where the municipality is currently struggling with repairs.

“We don’t want to hear that, but we need to be warned.”

He said that as acid builds up in the ocean due to increased temperature, there will be an increase in red tide (a harmful algal bloom that seriously impacts the marine life). This will in turn affect the underground fishing industry and the dolphins, whales and penguins which are major tourist attractions in Nelson Mandela Bay.

Muir said two other coastal metros, Durban and Cape Town, both have plans to mitigate climate change. “We need it,” he said, stressing the need for a multi-party task force to deal with the looming crisis.

“Planning will be key,” he said. For example, land use planning must take into account the dangers of global warming. “We know where the flood is going to happen.”

Muir said creating soft pads will be absolutely crucial.

“Durban has done it perfectly,” he said, adding that rehabilitating existing dunes is a “cheap and easy” way to start the fight against climate change and can provide jobs for many people.

For Nelson Mandela Bay in particular, he said the Baakens River can serve as a means of flood control, but is currently obstructed by vegetation.

He said the Baakens River Valley also serves as a natural carbon sink and will help protect the city from global warming.

He cited the example of planted parks and gardens around Florida in the United States that will serve as natural drainage areas in the event of flooding. “And that’s pretty,” Muir added.

He also pointed out that the more renewable energy that can be purchased locally, the less vulnerable the metro will be to extreme weather events.

“The secret is autonomy.”

In 2021, the Chamber of Commerce, following a series of major power outages likely caused by sabotage or vandalism, passed a program in which companies took responsibility for protecting substations in their operating areas. Muir said to deal with the possible devastation of severe weather, this should be extended to businesses also adopting roads and water lines.

He said rainwater harvesting should be incorporated into municipal regulations. “A lot of water is going to fall. We have to be able to capture it.

In addition to this, he added, boreholes should be monitored and controlled to prevent freshwater aquifers under the underground from being contaminated with salt water.

“It would cause permanent damage. There is no way to reverse it.

While some rainfall in December saved the metro from a festive Day Zero season, the water situation in the region remains critical.

The penguins of Algoa Bay, a major tourist attraction, are likely to be at serious risk due to increased red tide in the ocean. (Photo: Deon Ferreira)
The occurrence of deadly red tides in Algoa Bay, Eastern Cape is expected to increase due to climate change, with significant impact on marine life. (Photo: Deon Ferreira)

Garth Sampson of the South African Meteorological Service said he did not expect any significant rain and the region was heading for a new drought record in January.

He said there is money available to solve the problem of climate change, but the metro must ask it, and, given the level of threat, civil society should also start lobbying at all levels.

“This is a call to arms for action,” he said.

Muir said the Eastern Cape has been flagged by the United Nations as particularly suitable for mass restoration and rehabilitation projects, partly due to Spekboom and subtropical valley thickets, and as part of carbon sequestration. and climate mitigation.

“A lot of these climate change initiatives could potentially be funded by the rest of the world,” he said, “but we need politicians to act quickly and adopt the right plans that will attract funding.”

Muir said that although their forecast is that the situation will “get really bad” by 2040, the 18 years until then will see an increase in the number of severe weather events.

A report commissioned by the Center for Environmental Rights, written by clinical psychologist Garret Barnwell, also highlighted the great impact that climate change will have on mental health.

Barnwell says this will include an increasing burden of disease, intensifying water insecurity, worsening exposure to sun and heat, growing financial insecurity and growing inequality, inflamed interpersonal violence, growing food insecurity and an increase in natural disasters.

“Young people, children, women, those living near power stations and rural communities of this and future generations are most at risk as they bear the burden of the global climate.

“Furthermore, more than half of South Africa’s total population lives in poverty, and this socio-economic vulnerability makes it extremely difficult for the majority of South Africans to adapt to advancing climate shocks.

“The same social conditions that make individuals and communities more vulnerable to climate change also put them at higher risk for psychological adversities,” Barnwell said.

“Children and future generations are particularly vulnerable. Affected children are likely to have additional challenges in school, such as impaired concentration and emotional overwhelm. Children may turn these feelings inward and experience deep sadness, loss, helplessness, or despair, or they may turn these feelings outward in destructive ways… Some may engage in destructive behavior or try to soothe themselves by having resorting to overmedication or excessive alcohol consumption.

“…natural disasters or socio-economic loss can cause considerable psychological distress…increase the risk of depressive experiences, sadness, anger, helplessness, despair, interest and enjoyment of diminished lives, disturbed sleep, fatigue or loss of energy and feelings of worthlessness, recurring thoughts of death and suicide attempts.

“One of the greatest risks of the climate crisis is that people will commit suicide because they feel overwhelmed by distress and financial pressures…there is no hope, and their sense of support, community and the world turned for the worse.” SM/MC



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