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Droughts in East Africa: Stronger and '100 Times More Likely' Due to Climate Change
A new study shows that rain levels in the Eastern Horn of Africa are dangerously low due to the damage caused by fossil fuel emissions
On the 27th April, the World Weather Attribution (WWA) released a study which emphasised that human-induced climate change is the main cause of the harrowing droughts that East Africa is currently experiencing. East Africa has now had five consecutive failed rainy seasons, and this has caused an extreme drought that has had a disastrous impact on the people living there.
For example, Somalia is experiencing a devastating famine, with a total of 6.5 million people currently battling acute food insecurity, including 223,000 people who are facing catastrophic levels of hunger, according to the World Food Programme.
The main outcome of the WWA study was the finding that climate change – induced by human actions such as the burning of fossil fuels – is not only increasing the likelihood of lower rain levels, but is also increasing the levels of evapotranspiration in plants and soil, and has therefore made droughts such as the current one in East Africa stronger and "about 100 times more likely" because in a 1.2°C cooler world, the combination of low rainfall and high evapotranspiration would not have resulted in a drought. The 2022 climate change report by IPCC revealed that today's climate has been warmed by about 1.5°C by human-induced greenhouse gas emissions, and will exceed 2°C within the 21st century unless greenhouse gas emissions are reduced considerably in the next few decades.
Drought has been an especially concerning issue for the Eastern Horn of Africa in the past few years. A report by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, released in March, revealed that an estimated 43,000 excess deaths occurred in Somalia in 2022 due to drought, and half of these deaths were children under five years old.
In addition, many have been displaced from their homes and forced to find new places to live. Climate migration is now a key issue that is reshaping countries and borders. In February, the UN Refugee Agency revealed that over 180,000 refugees have left Somalia and South Sudan due to the horrific living conditions, and have crossed into Kenya and Ethiopia which have both also been sorely impacted by the drought.
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