From: Carol Campbell, SciDevNet, More from this Affiliate
Published December 13, 2007 12:50 PM

Namibia's poor 'will be hit hard' by climate change

Namibia, Africa - Climate change is expected to dramatically alter the lifestyles of poor people in Namibia, say the authors of a study. Their findings were published by the UK-based International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) this month (December).

Namibia is economically dependent on natural resources. Up to 30 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP) is estimated to be reliant on the environment. Climate change could increase temperatures by 2–6 degrees Celsius by 2100, and rainfall is expected to be lower and more variable.

The researchers used data from Namibia's natural resource accounts to model the economic impact of climate change.

They found that under a best-case scenario over 20 years, the overall GDP would fall by about one per cent (about US$70 million). But under a worst-case scenario, livestock farming would be hit hard, fishing production would be greatly reduced and GDP would fall by almost six per cent (about US$200 million).

Even in the best-case scenario, subsistence farming would be greatly reduced and a quarter of the population would eventually have to find new livelihoods. Extreme events like drought are expected to become more common, while changes in sea temperature will play havoc with the fishing industry. Economic diversification will be an important development strategy in future, especially in farming and coastal communities.

Phoebe Barnard, founder of Namibia's national climate change programme, now based at the South African National Biodiversity Institute in Cape Town (SANBI), told SciDev.Net that a detailed modelling study of climate change impacts on Namibian biodiversity and ecosystems was conducted by SANBI for Namibia in 2003.

The SANBI study projected significant additional bush encroachment of the savannah under climate change, and an expansion of Nama Karoo-type (dwarf shrubland) habitat. "This will severely compromise the livestock production sector, one of Namibia's main livelihoods, and put pressure on the ecology of areas marginal for farming," said Barnard. 

"It is up to industrialised nations — the most responsible for climate change — to help Namibia and other vulnerable countries cope with the impacts and plan for a climate-constrained future," says the study.

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