Peril of rising heat poses danger to food security


A sombre picture for South Africa’s climatological future and its potential impact on the agricultural sector was spelt out by meteorologist Dr Christien Engelbrecht from the Agricultural Research Council.

Speaking in Bloemfontein during the 51st congress of the SA Society for Animal Science, Engelbrecht said South Africa faced at least 30 years of volatile weather.

Heat in particular would have a significant effect on crops she said, and might force farmers to completely rethink what they plant.

“The expected temperature rise by the middle of the century is 3-4% higher than normal, with the expectation that it will be 6% higher than normal towards the end of the century.”

Engelbrecht added that the unusually high summer temperatures experienced in parts of the Northern Cape, Free State and North West province in 2015 and 2016 could become the norm.

Although it was characterised as a freak summer period, data gathered globally from weather patterns shows that spiking and sustained temperatures could lead to year-long El Niño-type summers that will have a crippling effect on crops like maize, soya, sorghum, sunflowers and wheat.

“The only solution is the cultivation of heat-resistant crops,” she said.

Engelbrecht identified carbon monoxide fumes, reliance on coal-fired power generation, and to a lesser extent, methane gas, as dangerous emissions imperilling humanity’s continued survival on earth.


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