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Accessing the Anthropogenic Climate change across the Sub-Saharan Africa – Obedgiu Samuel

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Obedgiu Samuel

Development within Contemporary Ecological Constraints:

Assessing Anthropogenic Climate Change across Sub-Saharan Africa

By Obedgiu Samuel


Anthropogenic climate change represents a multidimensional challenge that both industrialized and non-industrialized countries must address during the twenty-first century.  Anthropogenic climate change results in increased incidences of extreme weather events such as storms, floods, and heatwaves (Taylor 2018, 351).  High levels of greenhouse gas emissions produced from industrial and consumptive activities warm the global average atmospheric temperature and alter hydro-climatic patterns (Taylor 2018, 351).  Developing countries are especially susceptible to climate change impacts due to limited resources, capacity, and infrastructure (Taylor 2018, 351).  Developing countries, moreover, remain economically dependent on subsistence agriculture.  Climatic variability particularly influences rainfed agriculture.

Extensive poverty characterizes much of Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).  Most countries across this region are dependent on subsistence agriculture for economic growth and employment.  This region is especially susceptible to climate change because climatic variability impedes sustainable crop yields.  Climate change exacerbates food insecurity, water scarcity, and poverty.  Additionally, climate change limits the traditional pathway to development.  All countries that successfully industrialized and experienced sustained economic growth utilized fossil fuels to expand industrial and consumptive activities.  Countries in Sub-Saharan Africa that aim to transition from subsistence agriculture to industrialization must now develop alternative methods to transition to a low-carbon economy.

            In this paper, I explore the connection between economic development, poverty reduction, and anthropogenic climate change.  How can Sub-Saharan Africa transition to a low-carbon economy without further exacerbating global carbon emissions?  This paper argues that Sub-Saharan Africa must adopt sustainable agricultural practices that mitigate climate change impacts to achieve some degree of economic growth.  International institutions such as the World Bank must provide Sub-Saharan Africa the finances necessary to develop and transition to a low-carbon economy.  Finally, individuals in the Global North must decrease their extent of consumption to allow those in Sub-Saharan Africa to evade widespread poverty.

            Thus, the paper begins by assessing the causes of anthropogenic climate change as well as its impacts on various planetary systems.  The paper then examines the physical and social impacts of climate change on Sub-Saharan Africa.  The paper concludes by proposing strategies that allow the region to reduce poverty by adopting sustainable agricultural practices and transitioning to a low-carbon economy.

Impacts and Causes of Anthropogenic Climate Change Globally

In 1988, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).  The IPCC provides objective scientific information regarding anthropogenic climate change (United Nations, n.d.).  In 2014, the IPCC released its Fifth Assessment Report that assesses sea-level rise and cumulative carbon dioxide emissions since pre-industrial times (UN website).  The Report also provides a carbon dioxide budget for future emissions to limit global average temperature warming to below 2 oC (United Nations, n.d.).

The IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report concludes that due to climate change, the last three decades were warmer than at any time since 1850 (IPCC 2014, 2).  The period between 1983 and 2012 was likely the warmest thirty-year period in the Northern Hemisphere throughout the last 1400 years (IPCC 2014, 2).  Between 1880 and 2012, the global average of both land and ocean surface temperature increased 0.85 oC (IPCC 2014, 2).  Oceans store most of the increased energy present in the climatic system, which warms ocean temperatures (IPCC 2014, 4).  The IPCC determined that higher levels of carbon dioxide stored in oceans results in increased acidification of ocean waters (IPCC 2014, 4).  Climate change also impacts ocean temperatures.  Between 1971 and 2010, for example, the upper 75 m of oceans warmed on average 0.11 oC (IPCC 2014, 4).  Regions of high salinity, with high levels of evaporation, became increasingly saline (IPCC 2014, 4).  Regions of low salinity, with low levels of precipitation, became less saline (IPCC 2014, 4).

The IPCC also determined that between 1901 and 2010, average sea levels rose 0.19 m, a level greater than at any other time during the past two millennia (IPCC 2014, 4).  Anthropogenic climate change also impacts precipitation patterns.  When averaged over the mid-latitude land areas of the Northern Hemisphere, the level of precipitation increased since 1901 (IPCC 2014, 4).  Additionally, climate change decreases the size of ice sheets and consequently the extent of available freshwater.  Between 1992 and 2011, the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets lost significant mass (IPCC 2014, 4).  Arctic sea-ice decreased in every season and in every successive decade since 1979 (IPCC 2014, 4).

In its Fifth Assessment Report, the IPCC concluded that human impact on planetary systems is unequivocal since current levels of anthropogenic greenhouse emissions are the highest in history (IPCC 2014, 2).  Earth’s atmosphere is clearly warming and many observed changes in climatic systems have not occurred in millennia (IPCC 2014, 2).  The IPCC confirms that the concentration of atmospheric greenhouse gases is directly linked to average global temperature (United Nations, n.d.).  Thus, after more than a century of industrialization, deforestation, and large-scale agriculture, the extent of greenhouse gases present in Earth’s atmosphere exceed levels seen in more than three million years (United Nations, n.d.).

The IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report concludes that increased greenhouse gas emissions increase the extent of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide present in Earth’s atmosphere to levels not attained in roughly 800,000 years (IPCC 2014, 4).  Greenhouse gases are extremely likely to be the main cause of global average temperature warming observed since the mid-twentieth century (IPCC 2014, 4).  Emissions generated from combusting fossil fuels during industrial and consumptive activities contributed 78% to total greenhouse gas emissions between 1970 and 2010 (IPCC 2014, 5).  Total anthropogenic greenhouse emissions, moreover, continued to increase between 1970 and 2010 despite an increase in the number of climate change mitigation policies (IPCC 2014, 5).

Economic and population growth are the principal factors that increase overall anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions (IPCC 2014, 4).  Additional factors that increase emissions include lifestyle, technology, energy use, and land use patterns (IPCC 2014, 8).  These factors increase the extent of fossil fuel combustion and overall greenhouse gas emissions.  Interestingly, between 2000 and 2010, population growth remained roughly the same as the past three decades, yet levels of economic growth increased substantially (IPCC 2014, 5).  Increasing populations, economies, and standards of living on a global scale increase overall greenhouse gas emissions and exhaust Earth’s finite resources (United Nations, n.d.).

Industrialized countries contribute most to global greenhouse gas emissions due to their economic dependence on fossil fuels.  Nonetheless, non-industrialized countries are especially susceptible to climate change impacts despite emitting relatively low levels of greenhouse gases.  Sub-Saharan Africa lacks the resources, capacity, and infrastructure necessary to respond to climate change (Taylor 2018, 351).  Moreover, this region remains economically dependent on subsistence agriculture, a sector particularly prone to climatic variability.  The following section examines the physical and social consequences of anthropogenic climate change on Sub-Saharan Africa.

Physical and Social Consequences of Climatic Variability on Sub-Saharan Africa

            Sub-Saharan Africa possesses extensive ecological, climatic, and cultural diversity.  By 2050, this region’s total population is expected to reach two billion (Serdeczny et al. 2017, 1586).  Despite being relatively underdeveloped, this region has experienced some degree of economic growth.  In 2012, SSA’s total GDP grew at 3.7% and in 2013 its total GDP grew at 4.7% (Serdeczny et al. 2017, 1586).  Nonetheless, this region possesses the largest proportion of individuals living in chronic poverty (Serdeczny et al. 2017, 1586).  Half of all individuals residing in SSA live on less than $1 USD per day (Serdeczny et al. 2017, 1586).

            Sub-Saharan Africa is especially susceptible to anthropogenic climate change.  Roughly 40% of individuals residing in SSA live in arid, semi-arid, or dry conditions (Adenle, Azadi, and Manning 2018, 424).  During the past century, Africa’s average temperature increased 0.7 oC and is expected to increase between 0.2 oC and 0.5 oC during each subsequent decade (Adenle, Azadi, and Manning 2018, 424).  If the global average temperature rises 2 oC above pre-industrial levels, Africa’s summer temperature will increase 1.5 oC by 2050 (Serdeczny et al. 2017, 1586).  If the global average temperature rises 4 oC above pre-industrial levels, Africa’s summer temperature will increase 5 oC by 2100 (Serdeczny et al. 2017, 1586).  Temperature increase across SSA remains rather uniform across much of the continent, although inland regions in the subtropics will warm the most (Serdeczny et al. 2017, 1586).

            Sub-Saharan Africa is also projected to experience heat extremes as a result of climate change.  Between 2071 and 2099, for instance, most of SSA’s will experience heat extremes, especially in tropical West Africa (Serdeczny et al. 2017, 1587).  By 2100, much of SSA will experience heat extremes higher than the global average (Serdeczny et al. 2017, 1587).  SSA will experience increased heat extremes in the short-term even under a low-emission scenario in which the global average temperature increases 2 oC above pre-industrial levels (Serdeczny et al. 2017, 1587).

            Climate change is projected to alter precipitation patterns across Sub-Saharan Africa.  Generally, precipitation will increase in wet regions.  Eastern tropical Africa will likely experience a 50% to 100% increase in precipitation (Serdeczny et al. 2017, 1587-8).  Western tropical Africa will likely experience a 30% to 70% increase in precipitation (Serdeczny et al. 2017, 1587-8).  Regions along the west coast of southern Africa will likely experience a 30% decrease in precipitation, causing increased dry conditions (Serdeczny et al. 2017, 1589).  Additionally, the extent of evapotranspiration is projected to increase in areas with high precipitation such as southern Africa (Serdeczny et al. 2017, 1589).

            Sea levels along SSA’s coastlines will likely increase more than the global average due to the region’s tropical location (Serdeczny et al. 2017, 1589).  If the global average temperature increases 2 oC above pre-industrial levels, sea levels will rise between 0.2 m and 0.7 m near SSA (Serdeczny et al. 2017, 1589).  If the global average temperature increases 4 oC above pre-industrial levels, sea levels will rise between 0.4 m and 1.15 m near SSA (Serdeczny et al. 2017, 1589).  Additionally, savanna vegetation is highly susceptible to climate change impacts.  Further extreme droughts and heat waves threaten climate-induced tree mortality (Serdeczny et al. 2017, 1592).  Forests may shrink at the expense of grassland.

            Sub-Saharan Africa may experience widespread water shortages as a result of climate change.  Generally, this region has low permeability and few aquifers.  Only the Democratic Republic of the Congo, parts of Angola, and southern Nigeria possess larger aquifer systems (Serdeczny et al. 2017, 1590).  Groundwater remains the only source of safe drinking water throughout much of rural SSA (Serdeczny et al. 2017, 1590).  Groundwater recharge rates are projected to decline between 30% and 70% in southern Africa (Serdeczny et al. 2017, 1590).  Groundwater recharge rates are projected to increase by roughly 30% in parts of East and southeastern Africa (Serdeczny et al. 2017, 1590).  Water stress caused by climate change will impact river runoff and increase demand for irrigation water (Serdeczny et al. 2017, 1589).  Shallow groundwater may also become contaminated following intense rainfall (Serdeczny et al. 2017, 1589).  Some uncertainty remains in predicting water shortages due to seasonal rainfall variability as well as varying levels of land use changes, evapotranspiration, and soil moisture at different degrees of global warming (Serdeczny et al. 2017, 1591).

            Anthropogenic climate change will also negatively impact human health and wellbeing across much of SSA.  Extreme weather events will increase the extent and severity of natural disasters such as flooding and landslides.  These extreme weather events will inflict fatalities and injuries (Serdeczny et al. 2017, 1593).  Outbreaks of transmittable diseases, both food and water-borne, may also occur following extreme weather events (Serdeczny et al. 2017, 1594).  Cholera outbreaks, for instance, previously occurred after heavy rainfall (Serdeczny et al. 2017, 1594).  Climate change impacts on agriculture will undermine the affordability and availability of nutritious food (Serdeczny et al. 2017, 1594).  Food availability will likely decline by 21% by 2050, causing individuals to consume roughly 500 calories less per day (Adenle, Azadi, and Manning 2018, 426).  Widespread malnutrition places individuals at risk of indirect health implications by increasing susceptibility to other diseases.

            Anthropogenic climate change will exacerbate the extent of climate refugeesand internally displaced persons in Sub-Saharan Africa (Serdeczny et al. 2017, 1594).  The majority of migration in response to environmental change is projected to occur within country borders (Serdeczny et al. 2017, 1594).  Internally displaced persons will migrate from rural to urban areas.  Migrants typically experience extensive poverty and unemployment, particularly unskilled subsistence farmers that migrate to urban areas (Serdeczny et al. 2017, 1595).  These changes strain government resources, subsequently decreasing a country’s quality and extent of healthcare and education.  These environmental impacts negatively impact human development outcomes and impede gender equity.

            The IPCC predicts an indirect causal connection between poverty, economic shocks, climate change, and intra-state violence (Serdeczny et al. 2017, 1595).  Climate refugees may increase tension between ethnic groups as well as competition for limited access to land and resources (Serdeczny et al. 2017, 1594-5).  Uneven access to resources encourages competition between ethnic groups and heightened threat of conflict (Serdeczny et al. 2017, 1595).  The breakdown of governance systems due to civil war exacerbates poverty and collapses ecosystem conservation arrangements, eventually increasing natural resource exploitation (Serdeczny et al. 2017, 1595).  These observations reflect the interrelated nature of climate change impacts across Sub-Saharan Africa.  SSA’s agricultural sector is perhaps most susceptible to climatic variability since reduced agricultural yields limit the region’s employment, economic growth, and development prospects.

Climate Change, Agriculture, and Development across Sub-Saharan Africa

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concludes that Sub-Saharan Africa is most susceptible to climate change due to extensive poverty, poor infrastructure, and limited physical and human capital (Adenle, Azadi, and Manning 2018, 424).  These factors constrain the region’s ability to mitigate and adapt to climate change impacts.  Climate change will exacerbate food insecurity as well as adversely impact energy production, biodiversity, poverty reduction, and economic growth (Adenle, Azadi, and Manning 2018, 424).

Sub-Saharan Africa’s agricultural sector is most at risk due to anthropogenic climate change.  Crops are highly dependent on sustained precipitation levels and are sensitive to heat waves during the growing season (Serdeczny et al. 2017, 1591).  If the global average temperature increases 2 oC above pre-industrial levels, total yields from maize, sorghum, millet, and ground nut crops will decrease between 27% and 32% (Serdeczny et al. 2017, 1591).  Maize is one of the most common crops planted in Sub-Saharan Africa and is highly sensitive to heat extremes during the growing season (Serdeczny et al. 2017, 1591).  Furthermore, heat extremes may alter the ecology of plant pathogens (Serdeczny et al. 2017, 1592).  Increased soil temperatures can also cause fungal growth that kills seedlings (Serdeczny et al. 2017, 1592).

Sub-Saharan Africa is especially susceptible to climate change due to its economic dependence on rainfed agriculture, a sector especially susceptible to climatic variation.  Rainfed agriculture accounts for 96% of the region’s overall crop production (Serdeczny et al. 2017, 1586).  Subsistence agriculture drives the region’s economic development, industrial growth, and global trade (Adenle, Azadi, and Manning 2018, 412).  This sector accounts for 32% of the region’s total GDP and employs roughly two-thirds of the labor force (Adenle, Azadi, and Manning 2018, 412).  Agriculture is the main source of livelihood across much of the region, especially in rural areas where 75% of the population is engaged in traditional farming practices (Adenle, Azadi, and Manning 2018, 412).  Thus, climatic variability directly influences the extent of employment available in Sub-Saharan Africa.  Extensive climatic variability will exacerbate poverty and reduce peoples’ quality of life.

Sub-Saharan Africa is relatively underdeveloped because it remains economically dependent on subsistence agriculture and has not undergone industrialization.  Typically, countries that undergo industrialization transition from a predominantly agrarian economy to an industrial economy (Whitfield 2012, 241-2).  During this economic transition, a country’s extent of manufacturing increases and its level of agricultural production decreases in terms of total GDP and percentage of labor force employed (Whitfield 2012, 241-2).  Economic development does not necessarily describe a transition from agriculture to industrialization, but rather a transition from low to high economic productivity.  Thus, countries that experience sustained economic development expand agricultural productivity and cease subsistence activity (Whitfield 2012, 241-2).  Most countries in the Global North including the US, France, and Germany underwent industrialization during the nineteenth century.  Several countries in Asia including China and Japan industrialized during the twentieth century.  These countries underwent prolonged economic growth accompanied by widespread structural change in production patterns and improved living standards (Whitfield 2012, 241).

Increased manufacturing capacity and productivity from agriculture generate sustained economic growth (Whitfield 2012, 239).  These structural economic changes provide national governments the ability to invest in and expand existing welfare programs such as healthcare and education.  These investments increase a country’s human capital by producing skilled professionals to work in government and private enterprise.  Governments can invest more in physical capital to improve infrastructure and technology.  Poverty reduction results from industrialization and sustained economic development.

To date, all industrialized countries used fossil fuels to adopt structural economic changes.  Fossil fuels enable industrialization by providing the means for electricity generation for both industrial and consumptive purposes (Taylor 2018, 352).  Fossil fuels also provide the energy necessary to sustain manufacturing sectors as well as transport goods and services.  Conventional development now exacerbates greenhouse gas emissions and fosters an economic dependence on fossil fuels.  Climate change constrains non-industrialized countries from undergoing industrialization.  Most countries in Sub-Saharan Africa have not industrialized and remain economically dependent on subsistence agriculture.  Development challenges the confines of ecological sustainability since existing development strategies are carbon-intensive and exacerbate overall greenhouse gas emissions (Taylor 2018, 352).  Climate change constrains the fundamental notion of economic development, making development increasingly untenable (Taylor 2018, 357).

Responses to Climate Change Impacts in Sub-Saharan Africa

            Several responses allow Sub-Saharan Africa to successfully transition to a low-carbon economy while reducing overall poverty.  International institutions perform a critical role in orchestrating global environmental governance.  In part, these institutions coordinate financial investments across Sub-Saharan Africa.  In 2016 the World Bank launched its Africa Climate Business Plan to support climate-resilient and low-carbon development across the continent (World Bank 2015, 11).  The World Bank implements projects funded by the Climate Investment Fund and often in partnership with the African Development Bank (WB Plan 11).  These funds provide the financial resources necessary to enact climate-resilient and low-carbon development across twenty-five countries in Sub-Saharan Africa (World Bank 2015, 11).  Through its Africa Climate Business Plan, the World Bank aims to make adaptation and climate risk management a core component of development, expand mitigation opportunities, focus on knowledge and capacity, and increase financial investments (World Bank 2015, 11).

            To date, the World Bank financed 176 projects totaling $17 billion USD to enable low-carbon development within the ecological constraints posed by anthropogenic climate change (World Bank, n.d.).  The Africa Climate Business Plan reflects a multidimensional approach to developing resilience to climatic variability.  The Plan outlines specific projects that address the various forms of capital most likely to be impacted by global warming (World Bank 2015, 17).  The Africa Climate Business Plan also helps countries across Sub-Saharan Africa institutionalize climate action and uphold their commitment to the 2015 Paris Agreement (World Bank, n.d.).  The Paris Agreement established a common but differentiated approach to addressing climate change through the adoption of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) (Taylor 2018, 352).  Through INDCs, Signatories set emission targets that balance one’s responsibility to reduce emissions while recognizing disparate levels of development (Taylor 2018, 352).  International institutions such as the World Bank facilitate significant investment in SSA that assists the region in developing a low-carbon economy.  Adopting sustainable agricultural practices also support Sub-Saharan Africa’s ability to mitigate climate change impacts.

Adopting Sustainable Agricultural Practices in Response to Climate Change

            Sub-Saharan Africa confronts several obstacles to adopting sustainable agricultural practices, including the financial resources necessary to increase productivity.  For example, adopting sustainable agricultural practices requires acquiring seeds and agricultural technologies suitable to local climates (Adenle, Azadi, and Manning 2018, 416).  International institutions such as the World Bank assist developing countries in overcoming such challenges by providing financial investments.  Sustainable agricultural practices and increased use of modern agricultural technologies generate socioeconomic and environmental benefits (Adenle, Azadi, and Manning 2018, 411).  For example, agricultural sustainability generally improves food security and reduces poverty.

Adopting sustainable agricultural practices enhances efficiency and provides opportunities to mitigate and adapt to climate change impacts (Adenle, Azadi, and Manning 2018, 414-5).  These practices also alleviate some of the ecological risks related to agricultural intensification (Adenle, Azadi, and Manning 2018, 414-5).  Sustainable agricultural practices allow farms to produce food indefinitely while reducing adverse impacts on health, minimizing dependence on external farming inputs, and limiting damage to the soil and ecosystem (Adenle, Azadi, and Manning 2018, 415).  Sustainable agricultural practices incorporate multi-functional producing systems (Adenle, Azadi, and Manning 2018, 415).  A multi-functional producing system yields food for families as well as surplus for markets (Adenle, Azadi, and Manning 2018, 415).  Such systems also generate valued public goods such as carbon sequestration in soil and groundwater recharge (Adenle, Azadi, and Manning 2018, 415).  Sustainable agricultural practices conserve resources and integrate natural processes.  Examples include nutrient cycling and soil regeneration (Adenle, Azadi, and Manning 2018, 415). 

Fostering Resilience to Climate Change via Sustainable Development

Agricultural sustainability strengthens Sub-Saharan Africa’s ability to endure climatic shocks by incorporating the social, economic, and environmental components that constitute sustainable development (Adenle, Azadi, and Manning 2018, 415).  In 2015, the United Nations (UN) introduced its seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their respective targets (Gupta and Vegelin 2016, 440).  Through its SDGs, the UN advocates for inclusive development that recognizes social, ecological, and economic wellbeing.  To achieve strong sustainability, the UN cannot prioritize economic growth while compromising social or ecological challenges (Gupta and Vegelin 2016, 434).  In practice, developing within varying ecological, social, and economic constraints results in a duality of green economic growth (Gupta and Vegelin 2016, 440).

For instance, SDG number nine advocates building resilient infrastructure, promoting sustainable industrialization, and fostering innovation (Sustainable Development Goals, n.d.).  This goal demonstrates the interdependence that exists amongst technology, innovation, and industrialization.  Sustainable industrialization and increased resource efficiency recognize ecological constraints by encouraging sustainable resource use to prolong economic growth (Gupta and Vegelin 2016, 440).  Gupta and Vegelin argue that prioritizing economic growth undermines eco-centric approaches to development (2016, 444).  The SDGs focus on ecological constraints are principally concerned with technology transfers and scientific solutions rather than redefining economic growth based on limited environmental resources (Gupta and Vegelin 2016, 444).

The UN rhetorically espouses sustainable development by incorporating economic, social, and environmental aspects into its seventeen SDGs.  Economic growth is considered necessary to decrease social inequities and to address ecological challenges.  The UN does not fundamentally redefine the development process.  Thus, the UN’ SDGs do not challenge continuous economic growth and adherence to a materialist lifestyle (Gupta and Vegelin 2016, 438).  Implementing social and environmental wellbeing may constrain long-term economic growth and cause individuals to live within ecological constraints (Gupta and Vegelin 2016, 440).  Further delaying strong sustainability shifts burdens from present to future generations (IPCC 2014, 17).  Inadequate adaption responses to emerging climatic variability fundamentally erodes the basis for sustainable development (IPCC 2014, 17).  Ultimately, industrialized countries must adjust their economic interests to ensure there are sufficient resources available to implement the UN’ SDGs across the entire globe (Gupta and Vegelin 2016, 445).  Successfully achieving the UN’ SDGs will require the Global North to cease excessive consumption.

Limiting Excessive Consumption across the Global North

            In 1983, the United Nations created the Brundtland Commission to outline strategies that enable environmental protection and natural resource conservation while also supporting economic and social development (Moore 2011, 2011).  The Brundtland Commission introduced the term sustainable development and defined it as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (Moore 2011, 143).  Moore argues that the term sustainable development reflects constructive ambiguity (2011, 143).  In a world of highly unequal levels of consumption, distinguishing necessities from luxuries is nearly impossible (Moore 2011, 145).  How can we definitely determine an appropriate and equitable level of consumption and economic growth?  The idea of sustainable development is ambiguous because our needs are defined relative to those around us and are therefore constantly evolving (Moore 2011, 144-5).

            Initially, sustainable development promised to increase the relevance and importance of environmental values alongside economic growth during the policy-making process.  In actuality, sustainable development prolongs the promise of both environmental protection and economic growth but does not engage in the concrete limits that occur when adopting both ideals (Moore 2011, 146).  Since the Brundtland Commission, sustainable development essentially enabled continued greenhouse gas emissions without developing mechanisms to avert irreparable climate change impacts (Moore 2011, 145).  Sustainable development fostered the illusion that there are no trade-offs between economic, social, and environmental wellbeing (Moore 2011, 146).  Consumption and conservation can occur concurrently.

            Mitigating and adapting to anthropogenic climate change concerns equity and justice.  Subsistence farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa do not exacerbate environmental resources.  Patterns of globalized commodity production and high per-capita consumption exhaust Earth’s finite resources (Moore 2011, 149).  Moreover, industrialized countries contributed more than non-industrialized countries to net greenhouse gas emissions (IPCC 2014, 17).  Despite emitting a relatively insignificant amount of emissions, Sub-Saharan Africa is most susceptible to anthropogenic climate change.  Industrialized countries must therefore invest in this region to assist developing countries transition to a low-carbon economy.  The Global North must drastically reduce its excessive levels of consumption to allow individuals residing in Sub-Saharan Africa to experience a more equitable standard of living.  Constructing effective multilateral relations between the Global South and Global North is also necessary to effectively address global anthropogenic climate change and foster greater equity between industrialized and non-industrialized countries.


            This paper explored the connection between economic development, poverty reduction, and anthropogenic climate change in Sub-Saharan Africa.  Anthropogenic climate change exposes this region’s agricultural sector to extreme climatic variability.  Nonetheless, strategies exist that allow the region to transition to a low-carbon economy without further exacerbating global greenhouse gas emissions.  In sum, this region must adopt sustainable agricultural practices to mitigate climate change impacts and achieve some degree of economic growth.  International institutions such as the World Bank should provide the region the finances necessary to develop and transition to a low-carbon economy.  Finally, we can achieve greater environmental and social equity between industrialized and non-industrialized countries by reducing high per-capita consumption in the Global North and addressing patterns of globalized commodity production.

Anthropogenic climate change challenges conventional pathways to development since industrialization, a carbon-intensive means of sustaining economic development, exacerbates greenhouse gas emissions and climate change impacts.  Global warming represents a critical multidimensional challenge that both industrialized and non-industrialized countries must address during the twenty-first century.  Future research should therefore assess global environmental governance to adopt a stronger multilateral response to climate change and development.  This research should also consider the consequences of increased per-capita consumption in emerging economies such as South Africa.


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