Mon, Nov 20, 2006 - Page 9 News List

The unfounded claims of climate alarmists will not help Africans

The unfounded claims of climate alarmists will not help Africans

By Will Alexander

Vulnerability to nature is, unfortunately, characteristic of life for the poor everywhere. Millions of people live in conditions of poverty, malnutrition and disease and are vulnerable to natural disasters and weather-related events like floods and droughts.

At the UN's global warming conference in Nairobi, activists and government agencies were touting these problems as evidence that Africa is already experiencing the devastating effects of global warming.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicts that water will be drastically affected by the earth's rising temperatures, especially through a decline in rainfall in Africa. This, it is alleged, will cause more droughts and damaging floods, resulting in threats to water supplies, harming agriculture, human health and the natural environment.

Yet current predictions of adverse effects of global warming on water supplies, floods and droughts in Africa are completely unfounded, both in theory and measurement. Alarmists have been quick to uphold regional variations in rainfall as evidence of global warming -- but no evidence supports this claim.

More broadly, they have assumed that all climatic change is undesirable. In fact, an increase in the magnitude and frequency of heavy rains would be beneficial over most of Africa.


South Africa is the ideal sub-continental region to observe climatic signals related to global warming and water. The eastern part has high rainfall, while the west is an arid desert. The south receives rain in the winter, while the north receives it in the summer. The average annual rainfall for the whole region is 500mm, compared with a world average of more than 850mm.

Studying the South African data, we find that the mean annual precipitation over almost the whole of South Africa has progressively increased by at least 9 percent during the 78-year period of record with a high degree of assurance.

The 19 districts that constitute the southern and western Cape benefited from a 17 percent (57mm) increase in rainfall from 1950 to 1992. Obviously, in a region like South Africa that suffers from water shortage, such change is desirable.

Although the 1990s were reported to be the warmest decade of the past millennium, this was not reflected in an unusual increase in the numbers and magnitudes of exceptional hydrological events in South Africa.

More recently, last year's global temperatures were proclaimed to be higher than any in the recent geological past.

Yet again, no exceptional rainfalls, river flows, floods or droughts occurred during the year. Any additional global warming will further increase the annual rainfall over South Africa.

The possibility that it will decrease the rainfall in the foreseeable future is remote and without scientific merit.

Meanwhile, neither South African climatologists nor their overseas counterparts have produced evidence that links increased CO2 emissions to South African rainfall patterns.

The increases discussed above were already occurring early in early parts of the 20th century -- well before post-World War II increases in industrial activity and carbon dioxide emissions.


While the causal linkage between variations in solar activity and global climate can be debated, the parallel increases in sunspot numbers, surface air temperature, open water surface evaporation and rainfall during the last century are incontestable. Records show a significant 21-year periodicity in the South African annual rainfall and river flow records that is synchronous with solar activity.

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