Climate Change: another burden on the South African economy

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By Brad Brinkley

This article is exclusive to the Online Edition 3 of VARSITY News.


The South African climate change report informs us of the economic dangers of climate change and governmental solutions to keep our farms growing.


The value of South Africa’s primary agricultural production in 2016 was R263.2 billion. Suffice to say, that it constitutes a large portion of the economy. With the current environmental trajectory, is the economy in trouble?


According to the South African Climate change report of 2017, the biggest threat to the agricultural sector is Climate Change and the concomitant droughts experienced. This is because we rely heavily on the exports of raw agricultural products. Climate change causes droughts mainly through disturbances in rainfall patterns and increased evaporation rates from global warming. For example, the drought experienced in 2015 was due in part to El Niño, which is a naturally occurring process, however the water loss was exacerbated by unnaturally high surface temperatures. The surface temperatures recorded were on average 0.86 degrees Celsius above average that year, it was the hottest year since 1951. This is clearly a result of global warming.


During 2016/2017, our agricultural exports exceeded imports by R17914 million. Even through a drought. Unfortunately, we cannot rely on the durability of the agricultural sector in future, because of the ever-increasing effects of climate change. This results in significant crop losses and livestock deaths which will drive up food prices and increase import expenditure. If the gap between imports and exports reduces to the extent which imports exceed exports, we will experience an unfair balance of trade. This trade deficit would seriously hinder the economic growth of South Africa.


The tourism industry is the second most likely to take the brunt of climate change. Destruction of habitats, extinction of indigenous species and unfavourable weather conditions discourage foreigners from visiting and supporting local businesses. Tourism and agriculture are well known as two of the biggest contributors to the South African Economy. Therefore, we cannot afford to neglect this problem.


After signing the Paris agreement in 2015, government has detailed attempts for moving forward. The Paris agreement stipulates management techniques and timelines for governments to address climate change and keep global warming below 2 degrees Celsius. South Africa has decided to protect its agricultural yield from drought through early warning systems, prudent planning measures and an education and understanding of droughts on a national level.



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