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We need to speak about climate change


The storms ripping through the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal should, therefore, be understood within the context of climate change

Deadly, unforgiving downpours have claimed several lives in Durban. FILE PHOTO: Leon Lestrade/African News Agency(ANA)

A VIOLENT storm that moved over the eThekwini area on Monday night and continued into yesterday morning killed 32 people and left scores injured and displaced.

This was while the SA National Defence Force was deployed to the Eastern Cape after flooding displaced hundreds of people in Port St Johns.

Heavy rain in recent days has wrought havoc in some parts of the country, leaving in its wake death and destruction of property.

There are clear indications that we are living in the days of extreme weather.

According to the National Water Resource Strategy (Department of Water Affairs, 2013), water is the ­primary medium through which impacts of climate change are being felt in South Africa.

The department also noted that increases in climate variability and climatic extremes are impacting both water quality and availability through changes in rainfall patterns, with more intense storms, floods and droughts and changes in soil moisture and run-off, among other things.

The storms ripping through the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal should, therefore, be understood within the context of climate change.

Yet, climate change is not at the centre of our political discourse, a few days before the national and provincial elections, which will, by all accounts, be watershed.

None of the major political parties contesting the May 8 polls have featured the issue of climate change prominently in their manifestos, nor are they highlighting the matter on their campaign trails.

It is a known fact that it is poor countries that will bear the brunt of climate change – or are already.

The recent Cyclone Idai, which ravaged the people of Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, should remind us as South Africans of our unreadiness to detect or deal with the devastation of bigger floods.

We are not ready for the major health problems that will be unleashed by bigger storms, the damage to infrastructure and the trauma.

It is therefore incumbent on all of us to ensure that the conversation on climate change takes centre stage in our political discourse.

Our failure to ensure that the world deals with factors leading to climate change and to develop response plans will have a devastating impact on our country in the future.