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SA Climate and health risks

For the last few months, the south-western parts of South Africa have eagerly awaited the time when the sun stops hiding behind grey banks of clouds. Summer has finally arrived and now that the days are longer and warmer, we may feel more inspired to hit the beach, have a picnic in the park or resume our favourite outdoor activities.

One of the perks of living in South Africa is that we get to enjoy a moderate climate throughout the year, characterised by mostly hot, sunny weather. While a sun-worshipping session seems like just the thing you need to recover from the dreary season behind you, summer bliss can also come at a cost to your health.

According to the South African Weather Service the likelihood of extreme warmer temperatures over most of South Africa is predicted to be high throughout the 2015-16 summer season. With this in mind, Hippo.co.za asked South African medical experts what health challenges these extreme temperatures can bring, and why it's best to keep your Medical Aid updated even after flu season has ended.

Hippo.co.za chatted to FTFA on the topic:
Food & Trees for Africa on climate change and human health

Is there a link between global warming and severe weather conditions?
“All the science points to it, yes. As global warming has increased, so have extreme weather events. Take a look on our African Climate Reality Project's Twitter feed (@ACRP) or Facebook page (African Climate Reality Project) for loads of links to research that backs this up.”

How are South African summers affected by current global warming trends and the greenhouse effect?
“Generally, the western half of the country is expected to get drier with reduced levels of precipitation while the eastern side is set to get wetter with higher levels of precipitation. Overall, though, South Africa is set to become a drier country.”

As one of the biggest coal burners in the world, how would you measure South Africa's contribution to global warming?
“South Africa is currently the 11th largest annual emitter of carbon dioxide in the world, according to the World Bank (that figure includes all sources of emissions, not just those from coal).”

What is the impact of climate change on human health, especially in a developing country such as South Africa?
“As the weather changes, people start struggling with the basics of life: keeping a roof over their heads in the face of tremendous storms, feeding themselves and their children in a world of droughts and floods and the consequent food scarcity. Add to this, getting their children educated in the face of flooding rivers or severe poverty that results from floods and droughts. Overall, then, there is a greater risk of disease and malnutrition as a result of climate change.”

Which South African provinces are generally affected more by extreme temperatures during the summer?
“Generally, the more northern and western the province is, the higher its daytime temperatures will be. Recent research also indicates that 2015 has been the hottest year on record.”

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