Catastrophic drought that’s pushed millions into crisis made 100 times more likely by climate change, analysis finds

Without climate change, the continuous drought that has decimated the Horn of Africa and put more than 20 million people in severe food poverty would not have been feasible, according to a recent analysis.

This area of East Africa, which is among the most impoverished parts of the globe, has been experiencing its worst drought in 40 years since October 2020 as a result of an unprecedented five consecutive dry seasons.

Large portions of Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia have suffered catastrophic effects from the drought, including tens of thousands of deaths, crop failure, livestock starvation, widespread chronic hunger, and water scarcity.

This terrible drought would not have occurred in a world without climate change brought on by human activity.

The World Weather Attribution initiative’s fast attribution research, which was published on Thursday, came to that result. The group is made up of a group of worldwide scientists who examine data and climate models in the immediate wake of extreme weather events to determine the impact of climate change.

scientists discovered that the ongoing agricultural drought in the Horn of Africa has been rendered 100 times more likely by the planet-heating pollution brought on by burning fossil fuels – and that’s a conservative estimate, scientists claimed.

According to the study, higher temperatures have greatly increased the amount of water evaporating from plants and soils, leading to agricultural losses, livestock deaths, and water shortages.

The planet’s average temperature is currently 1.2 degrees Celsius higher than it was in the late 1800s before industrialization. The analysis concluded that without that warming, the area would not have gone through this severe agricultural drought.

The scientists investigated if climate change had an overall impact on the lack of rain but came to the opposite conclusion.

The study discovered that while climate change increases the likelihood of low rainfall during the region’s “long rains” season, which lasts from March to May, it actually increases rainfall during the “short rains,” which last from October to December.

Due to the influence of La Nia, a natural climate phenomena that provides dryer conditions to the area during the brief rainy season, this wetter trend has not been present in the Horn of Africa over the past few years.

Droughts are becoming longer and more severe over the world as a result of human-caused global warming. According to a World Weather Attribution group research published in October, the climate catastrophe caused the scorching drought that hit the Northern Hemisphere last summer—affecting significant portions of the US, Europe, and China—20 times more likely.

According to scientists, if fossil fuels are burned across the world, droughts will only get worse.

The worst effects are felt in already vulnerable areas. The Horn of Africa crisis, which is being exacerbated by climate change, has wreaked havoc in an area already plagued by a number of issues, including rising global prices as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and deadly domestic conflicts.

Farmers who depend on rain for their crops and cattle make up a large portion of the population. Due to the rains’ failure, they have been thrown into an even deeper state of poverty. According to estimates, at least 8 million farm animals perished as a result of the drought.

According to Phoebe Wafubwa, an adviser at the International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent in Kenya, “this has actually forced people to migrate to other regions in search of either water or pasture for their crops, or even just food for their families.”

According to the research, 1.7 million people in Ethiopia and Somalia have been forced to abandon their homes due to the effects of the drought, and hunger rates are extremely high. According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, more than 20 million people in the Horn of Africa have reached crisis levels of food insecurity or worse.

In Somalia, which has been on the verge of starvation, it is estimated that the drought has killed more than 43,000 people, half of them were children under the age of five.

Mamunur Rahman Malik, the Somalia representative for the World Health Organization, told CNN that “nearly half of the country’s population is affected, and over 3 million people are displaced.” He continued, “The cost of climate change and global warming is still being felt by the nation.

“The findings of this study show that frequent multi-year droughts compounded with heat extremes, in the main rainy season, will severely impact food security and human health in the Horn of Africa as the climate continues to warm,” said Joyce Kimutai, principal meteorologist and climate scientist at the Kenya Meteorological Department.

Although it has caused flash flooding in some areas of Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia, the region is experiencing some reprieve during the current wet season.

According to Chris Funk, director of the Climate Hazards Center at UC Santa Barbara, “the expectation is that the drought is coming to an end.”

But the path to recovery will be quite long. According to Kimutai, the present rains are “not substantial enough” to see a considerable improvement in food security. In the future, the area can anticipate even more extreme drought conditions.

“We expect to see the combined effect of low precipitation with (high) temperatures causing really exceptional droughts in this part of the world,” she said, as the world continues to warm.

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