'SA already in throes of global warming'

SOUTH Africa's temperatures have already increased and are likely to rise throughout the 21st century, Mark Gordon of the Department of Water and Environmental Affairs said yesterday.

SOUTH Africa's temperatures have already increased and are likely to rise throughout the 21st century, Mark Gordon of the Department of Water and Environmental Affairs said yesterday.

Gordon was addressing the Fossil Fuel Foundation Conference in Johannesburg on the latest local research findings on climate change.

"Warming will be the greatest in the interior of the country and less along the coast," he said.

Gordon said there were indications of increased rainfall in eastern regions in summer, and reduced rainfall in the southwest of the country by mid-century.

"Greater evaporation could lead to higher drought intensities during dry spells, but rainfall intensities could also increase, leading to a greater risk of local flooding events," he said.

Turning to recent trends in extreme events, he the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal were the most disaster-prone provinces, with 43percent of all disasters between 1900 and 1995 occurring in Western Cape.

He said large fires had doubled in frequency in Western Cape in the 1970s and these had been partly related to weather events.

Key impacts of climate change in the country included the loss of infrastructure due to sea level rise, weather events and weather-will disasters.

Health will also be affected and there will be increases in diseases such as malaria, changes in agricultural pests and an increase in weather-related mortality such as heat stress.

Gordon said climate change would impact on the country's water since both supply and quality would be reduced.

He said crop yields would be reduced and there would be changes in growing seasons and areas suitable for specific crops.

Gordon said research predicted that weather-related disasters could push up the cost of business and insurance. - Sapa

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