IPCC 2021 – Extreme Heat in Urban Africa

Climate change has increased heat waves (high confidence) and drought (medium confidence) on land, and doubled the probability of marine heatwaves around most of Africa.

Heat waves on land, in lakes and in the ocean will increase considerably in magnitude and duration with increasing global warming.

Most African countries will enter unprecedented high temperature climates earlier in this century than generally wealthier, higher latitude countries, emphasising the urgency of adaptation measures in Africa.

IPCC 2021 – Energy Security in Africa

  • The focus of these resources are to explore climate change and energy security in Africa.
  • Hydro electric power has been identified as a more sustainable way for Africa to achieve energy security in the future.
  • Throughout the continent of Africa there are already many hydroelectric power stations, with many more planned over the coming decades.
  • Climate change could potentially impact upon these plans. These resources focus upon that relationship.

IPCC 2021 – Climate Change in Africa

Africa: Climate Change Impact and Mitigation

Africa is one of the lowest contributors to global greenhouse gas emissions, yet key development sectors are already experiencing widespread losses and damages attributed to human-induced climate change.

Widespread negative impacts of 1.5-2°C of global warming are projected for Africa. These impacts are likely to be severe due to reduced food production, reduced economic growth, increased inequality and poverty, biodiversity loss, and increased human mortality.

Exposure to climate change in Africa is multi-dimensional. There are socioeconomic, political, and environmental factors which make people more vulnerable. Socioeconomically, Africans are disproportionately employed in climate-exposed sectors: 55-62% of the sub-Saharan workforce is employed in agriculture and 95% of cropland is rainfed. In decision-making, particularly in rural Africa, poor and female-headed households have less sway and face greater livelihood risks from climate hazards. Environmentally, in urban areas, growing informal settlements without basic services increase the vulnerability of large populations to climate hazards, especially women, children, and the elderly.

Climate adaptation across Africa is therefore crucial to lessen the impact of future warming, is generally cost-effective, and will provide social, economic, and environmental benefits to the vulnerable. However, the current finance available is far less than adaptation costs. Most adaption options are effective at present-day warming but their effectiveness for future warming is unknown.

Climate: Impact and projected risks

Most African countries will enter unprecedented high temperature climates earlier in this century than generally wealthier, higher latitude countries, emphasising the urgency of adaptation measures in Africa.

Both mean temperature and extreme temperature trends will increase across the continent, resulting in more heatwaves and drought. With above 1.5°C of global warming, drought frequency and duration will particularly increase over southern Africa. If 2°C global warming occurs there will be decreased precipitation in North Africa whilst any rise above 3°C of global warming will lead to drought duration in North Africa, the western Sahel, and southern Africa doubling from 2 to 4 months.

Bar north and southwestern Africa, rainfall events will also increase in frequency and intensity across Africa, at all levels of global warming.

Consequently, multiple African countries are facing compounding risks in the twenty-first century.

Hydrological variability and water scarcity will increase and will have a cascading impact on water supply and hydrological power production.

Climate change has already reduced economic growth across Africa, one estimate suggests gross domestic product (GDP) per capita for 1991–2010 in Africa was on average 13.6% lower than if climate change had not occurred.

Future warming will negatively affect food systems in Africa by shortening growing seasons and increasing water stress. With 1.5°C of global warming, declines are projected in suitable areas for coffee and tea in east Africa, for olives yields in north Africa, and for sorghum yields in west Africa.

Mortality and morbidity are expected to escalate as of tens of millions of Africans will be exposed to extreme weather and an increase in the range and transmission of infectious diseases.

Climate change is projected to increase migration. Africa’s rapidly growing cities will be hotspots of risks from climate change and climate-induced in-migration, which will amplify pre-existing stresses such as poverty, informality, social and economic exclusion, and governance.

Increasing temperatures are likely to cause drought-associated conflict risk.

IPCC 2021 – Wildfire

Wildfire: Causes, Impacts and Responses

Wildfire is a natural and essential part of many forest, woodland and grassland ecosystems, killing pests, releasing plant seeds to sprout, thinning out small trees and serving other functions essential for ecosystem health. Excessive wildfire, however, can kill people, the smoke can cause breathing illnesses, destroy homes and damage ecosystems.

Anthropogenic climate change increases wildfire by exacerbating its three principal driving factors: heat (by drying out vegetation and accelerating burning), fuel and ignition. Non-climatic factors also contribute to wildfires—in tropical areas, fires are set intentionally to clear forest for agricultural fields and livestock pastures.

Urban areas and roads create ignition hazards. Governments in many temperate-zone countries implement policies to suppress fires, even natural ones, producing unnatural accumulations of fuel in the form of coarse woody debris and high densities of small trees. The fuel accumulations cause particularly severe fires that burn upwards into tree crowns.

Globally, 4.2 million km2 of land per year burned on average from 2002 to 2016, with the highest fire frequencies in the Amazon rainforest, deciduous forests and savannas in Africa and deciduous forests in northern Australia.

Across the western USA, increases in vegetation aridity due to higher temperatures from anthropogenic climate change doubled burned area from 1984 to 2015 over what would have burned due to non-climate factors including unnatural fuel accumulation from fire suppression, with the burned area attributed to climate change accounting for 49%  of cumulative burned area.

Anthropogenic climate change doubled the severity of a southwest North American drought from 2000 to 2020 that has reduced soil moisture to its lowest levels since the 1500s, driving half of the increase in burned area. In British Columbia, Canada, the increased maximum temperatures due to anthropogenic climate change increased burned area in 2017 to its highest extent in the 1950–2017 record, seven to eleven times the area that would have burned without climate change.

In Alaska, USA, the high maximum temperatures and extremely low relative humidity due to anthropogenic climate change accounted for 33–60% of the probability of wildfire in 2015, when the area burned was the second highest in the 1940–2015 record.

In National Parks and other protected areas of Canada and the USA, climate factors (temperature, precipitation, relative humidity and evapotranspiration) accounted for 60% of burned area from local human and natural ignitions from 1984 to 2014, outweighing local human factors (population density, roads and built area).

In summary, field evidence shows that anthropogenic climate change has increased the area burned by wildfire above natural levels across western North America in the period 1984–2017, at Global Mean Surface Temperature increases of 0.6°C–0.9°C, increasing burned area up to 11 times in one extreme year and doubling it (over natural levels) in a 32-year period.

Regarding global terrestrial area as a whole, from 1900 to 2000, fire frequency increased on one-third of global land, mainly from burning for agricultural clearing in Africa, Asia and South America.

Where the global average burned area has decreased in the past two decades, higher correlations of rates of change in burning to human population density, cropland area and livestock density than to precipitation indicate that agricultural expansion and intensification were the main causes.  The fire-reducing effect of reduced vegetation cover following expansion of agriculture and livestock herding can counteract the fire-increasing effect of the increased heat and drying associated with climate change.

The human influence on fire ignition can be seen through the decrease documented on holy days (Sundays and Fridays) and traditional religious days of rest. Overall, human land use exerts an influence on wildfire trends for global terrestrial area as a whole that can be stronger than climate change.

In the Amazon, deforestation for agricultural expansion and the degradation of forests adjacent to deforested areas cause wildfire in moist humid tropical forests not adapted to fire. Roads facilitate deforestation, fragmenting the rainforest and increasing the dryness and flammability of vegetation.

In the extreme fire year 2019, 85% of the area burned in the Amazon occurred in areas deforested in 2018. In the Amazon, deforestation exerts an influence on wildfire that can be stronger than climate change.

Overall, burned area has increased in the Amazon, Arctic, Australia and parts of Africa and Asia, consistent with, but not formally attributed to, anthropogenic climate change.

Deforestation, peat draining, agricultural expansion or abandonment, fire suppression and inter-decadal climate cycles exert a stronger influence than climate change on wildfire trends in numerous regions outside of North America.

The global increases in temperature from anthropogenic climate change have increased aridity and drought, lengthening the fire weather season (the annual period with a heat and aridity index greater than half of its annual range) on one-quarter of global vegetated area and increasing the average fire season length by one-fifth from 1979 to 2013.

Climate change has contributed to increases in the fire weather season or the probability of fire weather conditions in the Amazon, Australia, Canada, central Asia, East Africa and North America

In non-forest areas, the burned area correlates with high precipitation in the previous year, which can produce high grass fuel loads.

Globally, fire has contributed to biome shifts and tree mortality attributed to anthropogenic climate change. Through increased temperature and aridity, anthropogenic climate change has driven post-fire changes in plant regeneration and species composition in South Africa – in the fynbos vegetation of the Cape Floristic Region, South Africa, post-fire heat and drought and the legacy effects of exotic plant species reduced the regeneration of native plant species, decreasing species richness by 12% from 1966 to 2010

Continued climate change under high-emission scenarios that increase global temperature ~4°C by 2100 could increase global burned area by 50% to 70% and global mean fire frequency by ~30%. Lower emissions that would limit the global temperature increase to <2°C would reduce projected increases of global burned area to 30% to 35% and projected increases of fire frequency to ~20%.

Increased wildfire increases risks of tree mortality, biome shifts and carbon emissions as well as high risks from invasive species. Wildfire risks to people include death and destruction of their homes, respiratory illnesses from smoke, post-fire flooding from areas exposed by vegetation loss and degraded water quality due to increased sediment flow. Increased wildfire under continued climate change increases the probability of human exposure to fire and risks to public health.

Regions identified as being at a high risk of increased burned area, fire frequency and fire weather include: the Amazon, Mediterranean Europe, the Arctic tundra, Western Australia and the western USA.  Moreover, increased fire, deforestation and drought, acting via vegetation–atmosphere feedbacks, increase the risk of extensive forest dieback and potential biome shifts of up to half of the Amazon rainforest to grassland, a tipping point that could release an amount of carbon that would substantially increase global emissions.

In the Arctic tundra, boreal forests and northern peatlands, including permafrost areas, climate change under the scenario of a 4°C temperature increase could triple the burned area in Canada, double the number of fires in Finland and double the burned area in Alaska. Thawing of Arctic permafrost due to wildfires could release 11–200 Gt Carbon which could substantially exacerbate climate change.

In Venezuela, Brazil and Guyana, Indigenous knowledge systems have led to a lower incidence of wildfires, reducing the risk of rising temperatures and droughts.

The Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area has a high concentration of plant species which are restricted to living in cool, wet climates and fire-free environments, but recent wildfires have burnt substantial stands that are unlikely to recover. Most of the area is managed as a wilderness zone and is currently carried out in a manner that allows natural processes to predominate. There has been a realisation that this ‘hands off’ approach will not be sufficient.  After the wildfires in 2016 caused extensive damage, significant efforts and resources were spent trying to protect the remaining stands of pencil pine during the 2019 fires, using new approaches including the strategic application of long-term fire retardant and the installation of kilometres of sprinkler lines.  However, there is concern that these interventions may have adverse effects if applied widely. Increasingly, there is an acknowledgment that the cessation of traditional fire use has led to changes in vegetation and there are calls to incorporate Aboriginal burning knowledge into fire management.

Wildfires pose a significant threat to electricity systems in dry conditions and arid regions.  Solar PV generation is reduced by clouds and is less efficient under extreme heat, dust storms, and wildfires.

Severe impacts on railway infrastructure and operations can arise from the occurrence of temperatures below freezing, excess precipitation, storms and wildfires.

Adaptation for natural forests includes conservation, protection and restoration measures.

Restoring natural forests and drained peatlands and improving sustainability of managed forests generally enhances the resilience of carbon stocks and sinks.

In managed forests, adaptation options include sustainable forest management, diversifying and adjusting tree species compositions to build resilience, and managing increased risks from pests and diseases and wildfires.

Successful forest adaptation requires cooperation, inclusive decision making with local communities, and recognition of the inherent rights of indigenous people.

Ecosystem-based adaptation measures can reduce climatic risks to people, for example restoring natural vegetation cover and wildfire regimes can reduce risks to people from catastrophic fires.

A case study to illustrate the innovativeness of indigenous adaptation is the Bedouin pastoralists of Israel, where wildfires are a major cause of deforestation. Competing land use has reshaped the landscape with pine monocultures and cattle farming, reducing the availability of land suitable for herding goats the indigenous way, across the original landscape of shrubland or maquis (consisting mostly of oak and Pistacia). In addition, since 1950, plant protection legislation has decreased Bedouin forest pastoralism by defining indigenous black goats as an environmental threat. This has led to nature reserves where no human interference is allowed and shrubland regeneration, which is susceptible to wildfires.

In 2019, many severe wildfires occurred in Israel due to extreme heatwaves and, in response, plant protection legislation was repealed, allowing Bedouin pastoralists to graze their goats in these areas once more. The amount of combustible undergrowth subsequently decreased, reducing the risk for wildfire whilst also facilitating indigenous food sovereignty among the Bedouin.

Modelling of the interactions between climate-induced vegetation shifts, wildfire and human activities can provide keys to how people may be able to adapt to climate change.

Fire management plans and programmes are increasingly being developed, even in parts of Europe where wildfires are less common.

There is growing recognition of the need to shift fire management and suppression activities to co-exist with more fire on the landscape, particularly in North America. This includes widespread use of prescribed fire across landscapes to increase ecological and community-based resilience.

Climate-informed post-fire ecosystem recovery measures (e.g., strategic seeding, planting, natural regeneration), restoration of habitat connectivity and managing for carbon sequestration (e.g., soil conservation through erosion control, preservation of old growth forests, sustainable agroforestry) are critical to maximise long-term adaptation potential and reduce future risk through co-benefits with carbon mitigation. Prescribed fire and thinning approaches, including the use of indigenous practices, are receiving a new level of awareness.

Enhanced coordination between the health sector and fire suppression agencies can also reduce the health impacts of wildfire smoke via improving communication, weather forecasting, mapping, fire shelters and coordinating decision making.

All text and diagrams adapted from the WGII and WGIII reports of the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg3/ and https://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar6/wg2

Physics – Egypt’s Benban Solar Farm

In this resource linked to COP27 in Egypt, physics students explore renewable energy production.

Learning Objectives

  • Recognise that solar power is a renewable energy source of great value in Egypt
  • Describe the energy transfer in a solar cell
  • Evaluate the energy dissipated in the Benban solar farm
  • Calculate the cost of the energy produced using the formula cost = power (kW ) x time (hours) x price (per kWh).

Motivation/Outline

In its acceptance speech at COP26, Egypt celebrated its renewable energy resources:

or https://unfccc-cop26.streamworld.de/webcast/closing-plenary-of-the-cop-followed-by-cmp-and-c-2 from 09:20

Egypt transitioned from the traditional energy sources to renewable, more sustainable and planet-friendly energy sources…

One of these resources is the huge Benban solar farm.

Lesson Introduction

Watch the relevant part of the COP26 plenary video and/ or

  • The Benban solar farm was supported by the Green Climate Fund. Contributions to the Green Climate Fund were one of the areas which didn’t make as much progress as was hoped at COP26 in Glasgow, 2021.
  • COP27 will be at Sharm El-Sheikh in Egypt in November 2022.
Benban - map
Benban map

images from google maps

Discussion points:

  • What is a renewable energy source?
  • Why is it important to develop renewable energy sources?
  • What is a solar cell and how is it different from a solar panel? Where have people seen solar cells/ panels?
  • What makes a location suitable for a huge solar energy farm? (space, sunshine, access for bringing the equipment in and getting the electricity out…)
  • Could we build such a huge solar park in the UK? (no, we don’t have a big desert, but you could research some UK solar farms)
  1. Use https://globalsolaratlas.info/map to compare the global horizontal irradiation where you live with that in Benban. (for Benban the value is given as 2366 kWh/m2).
    Global horizontal irradiation is the total amount of solar energy reaching a 1m2 horizontal surface on the ground in a year.

    Discussion point: What is a kWh? (if 1 kWh is the electrical energy converted by a 1 kW appliance used for 1 hour rephrase this in terms of electrical energy generation. See https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/guides/z2h4dxs/revision/1 for more detail)

    Discussion point: So what is a kWh/ m2?

    Extension: Express this answer as a proportion or percentage

  2. Discuss: what is the initial store of energy and by what pathways is it transferred? (nuclear store in the Sun, energy is transferred by light from the Sun to the panel and is transferred electrically from the panel to homes and businesses)
  3. The size of the Benban solar farm is 37.2 km2. Calculate the total energy carried by the light arriving at the site.

    (37.2km2 = 37 200 000m2 so 2366 x 37 200 000 = 88,015,200,000 kWh = 88 015.2 GWh = 88.0TWh)

    Discuss: kilo, mega, giga, Tera etc.

  4. The estimated output from Benban is 3.8TWh. How much energy is not converted usefully?
    88.0-3.8 = 84.2TWh

    Extension – write this as a proportion or percentage
    Discussion – why so much? Solar panels don’t cover the whole of the ground, solar panels are actually less efficient when they get hot, you can see solar panels, so they must be reflecting some of the Sun’s light, not absorbing it all etc.)

  5. What is the current electricity price in your region? (see https://www.ukpower.co.uk/home_energy/tariffs-per-unit-kwh and scroll down for regional breakdown).
    What is the value of the energy the Benban solar farm will produce during COP27, which is scheduled to last 2 weeks (assume there are 52 weeks in a year)?

    (cost = power (kW ) x time (hours) x price (per kWh).
    So value = 3, 800, 000, 000 kWh x 2/52 x 28.34 = £41,420,000.

    Discussion – is that surprising?

    Why might the quantity of electricity produced actually be different? (We started with an annual value, but the seasons and the weather will actually have an impact on how much is produced in a given week).

KS3 Geography – Egypt’s Construction Problem

In this resource linked to COP27 in Egypt, geography students explore population growth, urbanisation and climate change. 

Introduction/Motivation

The 2022 United Nations climate change conference (27th session of the Conference of Parties – COP27) will be held in Sharm El-Sheikh in Egypt, starting on the 7th of November.

In the introduction video screened at the end of COP26 in Glasgow, Egypt celebrated its adaptations and mitigations to climate change. In this resource, students will explore population growth, urbanisation and the greenhouse gas emissions from the construction industry in Egypt.

Resources:

PowerPoint

Learning Outcomes

  • To understand what COP27 is
  • To describe how the population of Egypt has grown and is projected to grow in the future
  • To be able to interpret a population pyramid for Egypt and use that to explain Egypt’s changing population
  • To explain how the construction industry has an impact on the climate and what steps can be taken to reduce that impact.

Optimising Flight Times

flight path

Calculate the best flight time from A to B and reduce greenhouse gas emissions!

The table below represents a cross section through the atmosphere and gives wind speeds (in m/s) in boxes which are 200km long and 1km high.

Your task is to pilot an aircraft, which flies at 230m/s when it is flying in the less dense atmosphere higher than 5km, and 150m/s when it is flying in the more dense atmosphere lower than 5km, from A to B in the shortest time possible.

Remember, flying in the same direction as the wind increases your speed but flying against the wind slows you down.

Map your route on the chart below and then calculate the flight time!

Rules

  1. You take off from the ground at A and land on the ground at B.
  2. You can only climb, or descend, one box per 200km.
  3. Give your final answer in hours and minutes.
flight data

Some students may find the following table useful:

flight time table

UK Energy Mix

In this activity students use current data to investigate  the UK’s energy sources.

Go to gridwatch.co.uk and use the table and the key at the bottom of the page to complete the following table. This website shows you where the UK’s electric power is coming from and what the total demand (use) is and has been over the past year.

(1 GW = 1 000 000 000W)

energy source table
  1. In some of the boxes, you may see a negative number – what does that mean?
  2. What is the total net amount of power we are currently getting from France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Norway?
  3. For the power generated in the UK, highlight all renewable energy sources.
  4. What is the total amount of power we are currently generating from fossil fuels in the UK?
  5. Looking at the graph headed ‘yesterday’, when would have been the best time to charge an electric car, if you wanted to use as much renewable power as possible? Why?
  6. Looking at the graph headed ‘last year’ which season(s) have the most energy generated by solar energy?
  7. Which season(s) have the most energy generated by wind energy?

Extension

By looking at the total energy demand, and the production by wind energy, what can you deduce is the purpose of gas turbines?

Can you see any correlation between wind output and gas turbine output?

Opportunity for Group Work

Make a poster or presentation showing what you have learned.

Cloud Cover and Light Levels

In this activity, students will test the hypothesis that “When the clouds are darker, more of the Sun’s light has been scattered and so less light reaches the ground”

Advice for teachers

Ideally, this activity should be carried out over a week or longer. This could mean that different classes contribute towards collecting the data.

You will need

Advice

  • Only compare light levels recorded by the same device/ app. Why?
  • Always measure the light levels at roughly the same time of day. Why?
  • Try and hold your device flat in your hand, with the surface horizontal, every time you make a measurement. Why?
cloud cover table

Extension

Draw a graph which shows light level against grey scale number

graph paper

Questions

  • Is there any relationship between the amount of light reaching the surface of the Earth and the colour of the clouds?
  • Do your results support the hypothesis?
  • Write a paragraph or draw a cartoon explaining how the thickness of a cloud affects what colour it looks and how much light there is near the ground. Make sure you include the words ‘visible light’ and ‘scatter’.

Air Pressure and Height

barometer

We can’t see or feel atmospheric pressure but rely on barometers to tell us how the pressure is changing.

Pressure changes with altitude. Changing weather patterns can also lead to changing atmospheric pressure.

For these exercises, you will need to download the phyphox app onto your phone or, if you are working in small groups, onto one person’s phone.

You will also need a tape measure (5m) and access to an open stairwell – the higher, the better!

phyphox app

Using the following information, calculate the theoretical atmospheric pressure at the surface of the Earth:

Total mass of the atmosphere: 5 x 1018kg

Radius of the Earth: 6370km (OR surface area of Earth = 5.1 x 10 14 m2)
Gravitational field strength, g = 10 ms-2

Pressure = force/ area
Pressure = mass x g/ (4 pi r2)
Pressure = (5 x 1018 x 10)/ (5.1 x 10 14)
Pressure = 98057 Pa

Alternative units: 1hPa = 100 Pa
1 millibar (mbar) = 1 hPa

Now open the app and select pressure:

phyphox app

Now use the forward arrow to start measuring the pressure:

phyphox pressure

Record the current air pressure in your classroom in Pa __________________________________

What proportion of the theoretical atmospheric pressure you calculated above it this (express your answer as a percentage)?___________________________

Move to an open stairwell and complete the following table, using a tape measure to record the vertical distance you have ascended between each measurement you make. Make sure that you make your first measurement at floor level.

pressure table

Now draw a graph of change in atmospheric pressure (dependent variable) against height (independent variable).

graph paper

Complete the following sentence “A pressure change of 1hPa indicates an altitude change of ____m”.

Extension Questions
Many smart phones, watches etc. are equipped with pressure sensors so that they can be used to calculate altitude.

1) If you used a phone (in flight safe mode) to measure the pressure inside an aeroplane in flight, why won’t it give you an accurate indication of the height you are flying at?

2) You are on a many-day expedition to the Himalayan mountains and you are using the pressure sensor in your watch to tell you how high you are. Why would it not be safe to rely on this information?

(resources created from ideas on https://phyphox.org/)

BACK TO TOP