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East Africa drought would not have happened without humans, new science says

Scientists have concluded that if the Earth had not been heated up by humans, the severe drought that has devastated the Horn of Africa and killed animals and crops while leaving millions of people without food would never have occurred.

Since October 2020, the east coast of the continent has been experiencing the worst drought for 40 years. This has led to conflict and left more than 4 million people in need of humanitarian aid.

19 scientists from 7 nations evaluated if Climate Change disrupted rainfall and agricultural Drought when crops and pastures were affected by dry conditions.

Climate change is causing the rainy season (March through May) to become drier and the short rains period (typically October through December) to be wetter.


The region’s drought experience was described as “unique”.

Climate change caused by humans has increased the likelihood of agricultural droughts in the Horn of Africa 100 times, according to the report. They also said that the “ongoing, devastating drought” would not have occurred at all without greenhouse gas emissions.

Joyce Kimutai is the head meteorologist of the Kenya Meteorological Department. She said, “Climate Change has made this drought exceptional.”

In the end, 20 millions people face acute food insecurity.

The World Weather Attribution Group, a group that specialises in rapid analyses of whether climate change has influenced extreme weather, analysed historic weather data. This included changes in two major rainfall patterns in this region as well as computer simulations dating back into the 1800s.

Scientists acknowledge that climate change is causing drought to be more extreme and frequent in the Horn of Africa. However, they also blame previous dry seasons, high temperatures and conflict as well as fragile states and poverty.

Read more:Suicide, drought and disease: Somalia fights a war on all fronts

UN estimates that 43,000 children died last year due to malnutrition.

Cheikh Kane is a climate resilience policy adviser at the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre. He said that the Horn of Africa has experienced droughts before, but this one was so long and intense it pushed people to the limit of their capacity to cope.

“Five seasons of rainfall below normal, coupled with livelihoods dependent on rain and vulnerabilities multipliers like conflict and state instability, have created an humanitarian disaster.”

Friederike Otto is a senior climate scientist from Imperial College London, and she led the study. She said that the findings showed how the effects of climate change “strongly depend” on our vulnerability.

According to the United Nations, more than 20 millions people have been affected in Kenya, Ethiopia Somalia, Uganda, and South Sudan by the drought. More than 2.2million people were displaced in Somalia or Ethiopia. Hundreds of thousands of women who are pregnant or nursing face severe risks.

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In just a few weeks, Somalia could face a famine

Rod Beadle is the head of humanitarian and relief affairs at Food for the Hungry. He said that almost 15 million children suffer from acute malnutrition.

He said that despite the recent rains, previous seasons of failure have created a dire situation.

The drought has resulted in soils that are severely compacted and cannot absorb water. Therefore, the floods have been more severe.

As more refugees arrive, the country faces severe outbreaks and other diseases.

Watch The Daily Climate Show from Monday to Friday at 3.30pm, and The Climate Show With Tom Heap at 7.30pm on Saturdays and Sundays.

Sky News is available on Sky News’ website, Sky News app, YouTube, and Twitter.

This show explores the effects of global warming on our landscape, and offers solutions.


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