IPCC Fourth Assessment Report: Climate Change 2007
Climate Change 2007: Working Group II: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability Sensitivity/vulnerability of settlements and infrastructure

Impacts on settlements and infrastructure are well recorded for recent extreme climate events (e.g., the 2000 flooding event in Mozambique – Christie and Hanlon, 2001; IFRCRCS, 2002; see also various infrastructural loss estimates from severe storm events in the western Cape, South Africa – http://www.egs.uct.ac.za/dimp/; and southern Africa – Reason and Keibel, 2004). Large numbers of people are currently at risk of floods (see, for example, UNDP, 2004; UNESCO-WWAP, 2006), particularly in coastal areas, where coastal erosion is already destroying infrastructure, housing and tourism facilities (e.g., in the residential region of Akpakpa in Benin (Niasse et al., 2004; see also Chapter 7, Section 7.2.).

9.2.2 Current sensitivity and vulnerability to other stresses

Complex combinations of socio-economic, political, environmental, cultural and structural factors act and interact to affect vulnerability to environmental change, including climate change and variability. Economic development in Africa has been variable (Ferguson, 2006). African economies have recently registered a significant overall increase in activity (growing by more than 5% in 2004 – OECD, 2004/2005; World Bank, 2006a, b). Sub-Saharan Africa, for example, has shown an increase of 1.2%/yr growth in average income since 2000 (UNDP, 2005). Despite this positive progress, boosted in part by increases in oil exports and high oil prices, several African economies, including informal and local-scale economic activities and livelihoods, remain vulnerable to regional conflicts, the vagaries of the weather and climate, volatile commodity prices and the various influences of globalisation (see, e.g., Devereux and Maxwell, 2001; OECD, 2004/2005; Ferguson, 2006). Certain countries in sub-Saharan Africa suffer from deteriorating food security (Figure 9.1a) and declines in overall real wealth, with estimates that the average person in sub-Saharan Africa becomes poorer by a factor of two every 25 years (Arrow et al., 2004; Sachs, 2005). The interaction between economic stagnation and slow progress in education has been compounded by the spread of HIV/AIDS. In 2003, 2.2 million Africans died of the disease and an estimated 12 million children in sub-Saharan Africa lost one or both parents to HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS, 2004; Ferguson, 2006). This has produced a ‘freefall’ in the Human Development Index ranking, with southern African countries accounting for some of the steepest declines (UNDP, 2005). Indeed, some commentators have noted that sub-Saharan Africa is the only region in the world that has become poorer in this generation (Devereux and Maxwell, 2001; Chen and Ravallion, 2004).

A large amount of literature exists on the various factors that influence vulnerability to the changes taking place in Africa (e.g., to climate stress), and this section outlines some of the key issues (see, for example, Figure 9.1a-d). However, these factors do not operate in isolation, and usually interact in complex and ‘messy’ ways, frustrating attempts at appropriate interventions to increase resilience to change.