South Africa’s Floods Are a Reminder of Its Climate Vulnerability

South Africa’s Floods Are a Reminder of Its Climate Vulnerability
People walk across a makeshift bridge over a river, after a bridge was swept away in Ntuzuma, outside Durban, South Africa, April 12, 2022. (AP photo).

South Africa is grappling with one of the most devastating floods in the country’s history. Several days of heavy rainfall in the coastal city of Durban and its surrounding KwaZulu-Natal province have left more than 400 people dead, 4,000 homes destroyed and 40,000 people displaced, according to local officials. Many locals have gone missing, while the damage to property and infrastructure continues to run into the billions. President Cyril Ramaphosa has declared a national state of disaster and deployed troops to help rebuild collapsed roads and bridges and to manage search and rescue efforts, including the delivery of food, water and clothing to flood victims. In addition, South Africa’s government has announced that it will partially finance the reconstruction efforts by tapping into funds allocated to its national COVID-19 Solidarity Fund, which was created to help South Africa fight the coronavirus pandemic.

The floods bring into sharp focus the national, regional, continental and indeed global effects of climate change. A recent report by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published earlier this month indicates that the window of opportunity for action is closing fast, and that African countries are particularly vulnerable to the threat of climate change. In a recent piece for WPR, I noted that the 4,000-mile coast of West Africa, stretching all the way from Mauritania to Cameroon, is especially vulnerable to the impacts of rising sea levels, including erosion and flooding.

The port city of Durban has experienced flooding events annually in recent years. And in neighboring Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi, extreme weather events have killed scores of people over the past few years, while devastating the lives of many more. Meteorologists in South Africa have insisted that the recent storms were not tropical, but are part of a normal South African weather system called a “cut-off low,” which brings heavy rain and cold weather. Still, they nonetheless warned that atmospheric changes will bring unpredictable, extreme weather events in the coming years.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.