The unrelenting drought that devastated the Horn of Africa and left more than 20 million people facing food shortages would not have been possible without climate change, a new analysis has found.

As of October 2020, this part of East Africa, one of the poorest regions in the world. It has been hit by the worst drought in 40 years after five consecutive seasons without enough rain.

The drought has had catastrophic consequences on large areas of Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia. Tens of thousands of people have died, crops have failed, livestock are starving, and chronic hunger and water shortages are increasing.

In a world without human-induced climate change, this devastating drought would not have occurred.

That’s the conclusion of a rapid attribution study published by the World Weather Initiative. The organization consists of a team of international scientists who, immediately after extreme weather events, analyze data and climate models to establish what role climate change played.

Scientists in the Horn of Africa have discovered that global warming pollution caused by the burning of fossil fuels has contributed to a 100 times greater likelihood of agricultural drought in the region.

Higher temperatures have significantly increased the amount of water that evaporates from plants and soil, causing crop losses, livestock deaths and water shortages.

The average temperature of the planet is now about 1.2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels of the late 1800s. Without that warming, the region would not have experienced this severe agricultural drought, the report said.

Scientists also considered whether climate change was to blame for the lack of rain, but concluded that there was no overall impact.

The report found that while climate change is contributing to possibly double the rainfall during the region’s “long rain” season, which runs from March to May, it is actually making the “short rains,” between October and December, longer.

The reason why this wetter trend has been absent in the Horn of Africa over the past few years is the influence of La NiƱa, a natural climate phenomenon that brings drier conditions to the region during periods of short rains.

Global warming is making droughts around the world longer and more extreme.

The massive drought that hit the Northern Hemisphere last summer, including large parts of the US, Europe and China, was 20 times more likely due to the climate crisis, according to an October analysis by the World Weather Attribution Group.

Scientists say droughts will become more severe if the world continues to burn fossil fuels.

Regions that are already vulnerable face the worst impacts. The climate-induced disaster in the Horn of Africa has wreaked havoc on a region already suffering from a host of problems, including global price increases following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and deadly internal conflicts.

A large part of the population are farmers who rely on rainfall for crops and livestock. They became even more impoverished because the rains disappeared. It is estimated that at least 8 million domestic animals died during the drought.

“This has actually forced people to migrate to other regions in search of water or pasture for their crops, or just food for their families,” said Phoebe Wafubwa, an adviser at the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Kenya.

According to the report, around 1.7 million people in Ethiopia and Somalia have been forced to flee their homes due to the impact of the drought, and hunger levels are huge. More than 20 million people in the Horn of Africa have been pushed into poverty and hunger. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, this number may be significantly higher.

In Somalia, which is on the brink of famine, more than 43,000 people are estimated to have died in the drought, half of whom were children under the age of five.

“Almost half of the country’s population has been affected, over 3 million people have been displaced,” Mamunur Rahman Malik, Somalia’s representative to the World Health Organization, told CNN.

“The country continues to pay the price of global warming and climate change,” he added.

“The results of this study show that frequent multi-year droughts accompanied by heat extremes during the main rainy season will seriously affect food security and people’s health in the Horn of Africa as the country continues to warm,” said Joyce Kimutai, chief meteorologist and climate scientist at Kenya meteorological department.

The region is experiencing some relief during the current rainy season, although it has brought flash floods to parts of Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia.

“The drought is expected to be coming to an end,” said Chris Funk, director of the Center for Climate Hazards at UC Santa Barbara.

However, the road to recovery will be very long. The current rains are “not enough” to see much improvement in food security, Kimutai explained. The region can expect more extreme drought conditions in the future.

As the world continues to warm, “we expect to see the combined effect of low rainfall with (high) temperatures causing extreme droughts in this part of the world,” she said.

E2 portal (Euractive)

Source: E2 Portal by www.e2.rs.

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