Global warming is affecting South Africa’s weather patterns and predictions are that changes will become more pronounced over the next decades. The specific predictions are complex and couched in uncertainty, but there is general consensus that average temperatures will increase, particularly over the interior of the country. Changes in rainfall patterns are less certain, but it is likely that the western parts of the country will become drier and the central and eastern parts somewhat wetter. Shorter rainy seasons and an increase in severe weather events (droughts, floods, storms, tornados, etc.) are also likely to be part of the change.
The agricultural sector is obviously the most directly affected by climatic changes and it poses problems for rural economies, but, as we have seen with the current drought, the knock-on effects are felt in urban areas too, particularly with rising food prices.
National government is responsible for laws and policies to reduce carbon emissions.
But local authorities are responsible for limiting damage due to natural events
....by enforcing building codes; controlling settlement in unsuitable areas; maintaining roads, bridges, and other lines of communication; maintaining water supplies and waste removal; etc.
The African National Congress (ANC) acknowledges that local authorities have a central role to play in adapting to a changing climate. But they don’t say what this role is. Under the ANC’s rule, municipalities will work more closely with provincial and national government to develop their mitigation and adaptation measures. You decide whether this is a good or bad thing!
The Democratic Alliance (DA)’s manifesto promises a lot, and by way of example, showcases its state-of-the-art Disaster Risk Management Centre in the City of Cape Town, by implication suggesting that such centres will be rolled-out in any other municipalities it governs. On the other hand, the actual words “climate change” do not appear anywhere.
The Economic Freedom Front (EFF) promises that no pothole will last more than 48 hours. Unfortunately, the kinds of floods we can expect may well wash the entire road away, unless they have already met another promise to “…construct and maintain storm water systems to avoid all forms of floods and heavy rains which might destroy infrastructure.” However, there is no real evidence that their vision integrates the kind of disaster management that may be needed.
The United Democratic Movement (UDM) insists each local government must have its own disaster management strategies in place, with rapid response systems to coordinate movement or evacuation when necessary.
But, adapting to climate change requires much more than ensuring flood-proof infrastructure and effective disaster relief systems. A truly resilient urban or rural community will be one where relationships and support structures within the community are good, and where relationships between citizens and authorities are open, honest and productive.
Some questions for your newly elected councillor:
- How ready is the municipality for the challenges of climate change?
- How do you intend to minimise damage caused by natural disasters and climate change?
- What disaster relief strategies do you have in place
- How do you envisage this community becoming resilient in the face of climate change?