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  • Credit: © Greenpeace Africa / Mujahid Safodien

  • Credit: © Greenpeace Africa / Mujahid Safodien

  • Credit: © Greenpeace Africa / Mujahid Safodien

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What will basic lifestyles and services look like from 2021 onwards, through 2030, 2040 and beyond for today’s children and future generations?

27 October 2021

What will basic lifestyles and services look like from 2021 onwards, through 2030, 2040 and beyond for today’s children and future generations?

A report by Professor Nick King

 26 Aug 2021

Summary

The science of climate change is unequivocal – it is happening, it is anthropogenic in cause and we are currently on ‘worst case’ trajectories (IPCC 2021). This worst case trajectory is the unabated, ‘business as usual’ trajectory, or scientifically, Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) 8.5, which in terms of global surface temperature represents a 3-4°C+ increase above the 20th century average temperature, by around mid-century. Given the current state of political negotiations and actions, it is currently the most probable scenario for predicting the extent and timing of future climate impacts. However, even ‘best case’ scenarios have us reaching 1.5°C within 10-20 years, given the greenhouse gases (GHG) already emitted and ‘committed to’ in terms of near-term future emissions. 

Southern Africa, an already warm, sub-topical, and semi-arid region, will be harder hit than temperate regions, and South Africa, despite being the most developed country in the Southern African Development Community (SADC), will suffer enormous negative physical, socio-economic and ecological impacts, under all scenarios. These will include extreme heat stress, extreme weather events, including storms, flooding and droughts, sea-level rise and coastal damage, crop failures and food insecurity, water stress, disease outbreaks, various forms of economic collapse and social conflict and mass migration to informal settlements around urban areas. Impacts do not rise linearly with rising temperature, but with an ever-steepening curve, rapidly making large parts of the interior of the country, as well as vulnerable low-lying coastal areas, uninhabitable. All of these impacts together will dramatically alter the lives and prospects for today and tomorrow’s youth, who will suffer significant harms, in a combination of detrimental physical health and wellbeing, mental trauma, social upheaval and reduced opportunities for self-advancement. 

The difference between 1.5°C, 2°C or 3-4°C+ average global heating increases may appear marginal. In fact, they represent vastly different scenarios for the future of humanity. Projected changes in extremes are larger in frequency and intensity with every additional increment of global heating. Any additional GHG emissions exacerbate global heating, thus all mitigation actions will help reduce these negative outcomes, and must be actively pursued by governments. Any further delays means mitigation becomes increasingly difficult to achieve at the scales required, consigning today’s youth and future generations to significantly more harmful climate impacts.

 

Read the report: King, 2021. What will basic lifestyles and services look like from 2021 onwards, through 2030, 2040 and beyond for today’s children and future generations?