At the global scale, the frequency, extent and severity of natural disasters have increased notably over the last several years and economic losses from weather- and climate-related disasters have also increased. Climate-related disasters have come to dominate the disaster risk landscape accounting for upwards of 80% of reported disasters worldwide (Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters).
Climate change is expected to increase the frequency, intensity, spatial extent, duration, and timing of many extreme weather-related events, which without reductions in vulnerability will increase the risk of disasters.
More frequent and intense events combined with a growing and urbanising population and increasing value in urban and built infrastructure imply greater exposure to such events. The expected increase in weather-related disasters as a result of climate change are expected to negatively impact food production and water supply, infrastructure, settlements, and human well-being.
South Africa is susceptible to a number of extreme weather events with the most common being floods, droughts, fires and large storms. Other disaster risks include lighting strikes, heat waves, hail damage, wind storms and sea level rise as well as possible increases in health related disasters.
Drought impacts stem from a combination of factors. Increasing rainfall variability is one aspect, but how this affects communities depends upon how well people, the economy and the environment can adapt.
Various factors may undermine people’s ability to withstand reduced water availability (a meteorological drought) and to prevent it from developing into agricultural and hydrological drought with social, economic and environmental impacts.