In Cape Town, A modern-day apocalypse has peered into our future, and what it sees is terrifying.
Deadly heat waves in the predicted future; There are unprecedented power storms and habitat-altering droughts.
The Lengau supercomputer at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in Rosebank, Cape Town, is running future climate models for South Africa.
Lengau, which means cheetah in Sotho, South Africa is likely to face four tipping points that will cause irreversible changes to the country’s climate system.
They could happen in the next decade or two.
The first is an event. Day-zero droughtIt hit Gauteng, crippling the province’s economy and causing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis.
“This is Baal [Dam] Not 95% but 25%. That is a real water crisis. “Because when levels drop below 20%, it’s really hard to get water,” said Francois Engelbrecht, professor of climatology at Wits University’s Global Change Institute.
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“This is businesses, It affects industries and households. I would say that there is a possibility of social unrest. This is our biggest climate change risk in South Africa.”
The second point is perfection. South Africa’s maize crop and its cattle industry collapsed.. Prolonged droughts will continue to cause this. Southern African farmers got a taste of this during the 2015/2016 drought, when Botswana lost 40% of its herds.
Killer heat waves The third estimate is that tens of thousands may die.
The fourth tipping point is the weather phenomenon that has not been observed in South Africa.
The warming of the Mozambique Channel brings the possibility. Category 4 or 5 tropical cyclones Move further south than usual and make landfall in Maputo or even Richards Bay.
Hurricane Katrina, which hit New Orleans in 2005 and killed 1,800 people and caused $125 billion worth of damage, was classified as a Category 5 tropical cyclone.
A Category 4 or 5 cyclone has winds over 200 km/h in its path; Heavy rain and storm surges of up to 1,000mm will be experienced within 24 hours.
Because South Africa does not have a cyclone season, its citizens and governments are unprepared for such a disaster.
They predict when it will happen.
Southern African climate models are seeing these four tipping points somewhere on the horizon, but the issue stops at when they are likely to arrive.
“We are now embarking on two major research projects that will, for the first time, formally quantify what will happen in southern Africa over the next 10 years,” Engelbrecht said.
“A National Research Foundation-funded project specifically focused on understanding Day-Zero drought risk in Gauteng.”
In another project, South Africa Namibia Botswana, Scientists in Zambia and Germany are studying heat waves and their effects on the cattle industry. The project will also look at the effects of drought on large mammals in national parks and communities that depend on groundwater.
“So we have these groups of experts and we’re looking forward to advancing our understanding of these two tipping points in southern Africa,” Engelbrecht said.
“If we go to Rand Water or the Department of Water and Sanitation and we can produce credible research that they can publish if the risk is high, let’s say it’s a 30% or 50% chance. If it happens in the next 10 years, we should expect them to take action. But if you can’t say exactly how big the risks are, it’s hard for them to take the right actions.”
Earlier this year, South Africa experienced a bit of the future that Lengau had forewarned.
In the week leading up to Easter, floods in KwaZulu-Natal destroyed hundreds of homes, displaced 40,000 people and killed 448.
In a warming world, Extreme weather events such as the KZN floods are expected to occur.
“I think we should learn very important lessons. [the KZN floods]; It shows how vulnerable we are across South Africa,” Engelbrecht said.
“We need to be more effective with our early warning systems and be able to apply those warnings to communities. Learn if you can. [the KZN floods]It can help prepare for the day when a category 4 or 5 hurricane moves south from Maputo or Richards Bay.”
Global tipping points
Countries around the world are facing the risk of climate change.
A study recently published in the journal Science It concluded that a number of climate tipping points could occur if global temperatures exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
These suggestions include the collapse of the Greenland ice sheet; This includes the death of the Amazon rainforest and the melting of permafrost.
The time span over which these factors occur can vary from decades to hundreds of thousands of years.
lead author of the study; Stockholm Resilience Centre; David Armstrong McKay, from the University of Exeter and the Earth Commission, said: “We can already see signs of instability in parts of the West Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets. The Amazon rainforest and the Atlantic Ocean are potentially rotating.
“The world is facing the danger of the scoreboard. As global temperatures continue to rise, more tipping points may occur.”
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Sixth Assessment Report states that the risks of climate extremes are around 2°C above pre-industrial temperatures and 2.5-4°C very high.
“Since the climate advisory points were first assessed in 2008, the list has grown and the assessment of the risk they pose has increased dramatically,” said Tim Lenton, director of the university’s Global Systems Institute, another co-author of the paper. of Exeter DM/OBP