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Report: Over 15,000 people died from climate extremes in Africa in 2023 

Climate change Climate change

A Carbon Brief investigation made available to TheCable has found that up to 15,700 people have died from the impacts of climate change in Africa in 2023 – up from the 4,000 people killed by extreme weather disasters in 2022.

The investigation, published on Wednesday, also found that a further 34 million people were affected by extreme weather disasters.

The analysis which mapped different climate disasters including cyclones, floods, heatwaves, wildfires, drought and famine, found that climate extremes on the continent mostly go unreported. 

This, it stated, is because Africa has the lowest density of weather stations out of any other continent – making it difficult to know or monitor the extent to which extreme weather is happening and how it might be shifting because of climate change.

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However, it made it clear that the vast majority of deaths (11,300) occurred during Libya’s record floods.

“More than 3,000 people were killed in flash floods in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda in May,” the investigation reads in part.

“At least 860 people were killed in floods and mudslides during Tropical Cyclone Freddy, the longest lasting cyclone on record affecting Madagascar, Mozambique, Mauritius, Malawi, Réunion and Zimbabwe.

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“More than 29 million people continued to face unrelenting drought conditions across Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Djibouti, Mauritania and Niger.

“Southern African countries sweltered in a months-long winter heatwave, leaving many facing summer-like conditions for a continuous year.”

‘THERE’S NEED FOR LOSS AND DAMAGE FUND’

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Although scientists are yet to figure out the reasons why 2023 has seen such extreme heat and unusual weather events, the analysis made reference to known contributors including the 1.3C of temperature rise and El Niño, a natural phenomenon that drives up global temperatures.

According to Carbon Brief, Izidine Pinto, a climate scientist from Mozambique who works at the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, said this year’s climate impact is unusual, adding that Africa recorded extreme temperatures almost every month. 

Describing the situation as one that has left scientists puzzled, Joyce Kimutai, a climate scientist from Kenya working at the Grantham Institute – Climate Change and the Environment at Imperial College London, said the climate system keeps changing and this has not helped scientists in understanding the situation. 

“Climate change is really disrupting the climate system. To me, I think it’s challenging, it’s difficult and it’s also dangerous in a way because as climate scientists we don’t know exactly what’s happening. Every time we think we’ve understood the system, things keep changing,” she was quoted by Carbon Brief as saying. 

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Kimutai added that the toll of extreme weather events on African lives in 2023 is a stark example of “loss and damage” — a term to describe how climate change is already harming people, especially the world’s most vulnerable. 

With less than six weeks to COP28, the controversies that trail the establishment of the loss and damage fund and what country it will be domiciled has left African countries (and the entire global south) unsure of the possibility of a near climate reparation that would help address the many climatic impacts faced by communities across the continent.

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