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Climate Change in Africa: What Is a Continent to Do?

As over 190 countries try to figure out how to tackle climate change over the next several days , there is one region of the world that is sure to be adversely affected by the long terms effects of carbon emissions, and, it doesn't even account for five percent of global emissions.

According to a 2006 article in Science Daily on this very issue, "Africa is the continent that will suffer most under global warming." Farmers across the continent have already noticed alterations in rainfall and future drought as a result of worldwide carbon emissions have been predicted.

Poor countries may need up to $100 billion a year to respond to climate change. So far, Western countries have pledged $10 billion by 2012.

So what is this continent to do?

"One of the [climate change] priorities for Africa is adaptation," Mozambique's minister for the environment, Alcinda Abreu, said.

For some, that means being proactive and turning this crisis into an opportunity for better self sufficiency and growth. Sure, Africa will likely bear the brunt of past global acts, but could investing in new technology change its future in a more carbon emitting conscious world? Could this be done in the form of solar energy -- a natural resource that is so abundant that it could potentially be harvested and even exported? Africa is in a position to leverage its greatest natural resource that doesn't need to be drilled into or refined -- the sun. And maybe, just maybe, this leverage would give it a greater voice, and thereby greater power on the world stage, in discussing this issue at future world summits.

"African countries must think outside the box. The sun is free and inexhaustible. Solar technology -- photovoltaic panels -- converts the sun's radiation directly into electricity with no pollution or damage to the environment. The panels can generate enough power to run stoves, pump water, light clinics and power televisions. Africa has one of the best climates for this type of energy," Mr. Makokoro, director of the Energy Technology Institute in Zimbabwe, said in 2006.

According to a December 7, 2008, edition of 60 Minutes, Saudi Arabia is investing in solar energy as a means to supplement its oil industry. If one of the world's leading oil producers has an eye on solar energy based on its abundant sunlight, why not an entire continent that can also brag of such abundance?

Although solar panel installations are not cheap, certain countries are in unique positions to not only grow an industry, but revolutionize the region with heavy wide scale investment. In June 2009, Nigeria and the EU signed a new agreement on energy aimed at the development of non-oil energy sources such as wind, solar and biomas. Although a negligible amount, Nigeria alone accounts for more than half of the continent's carbon emissions. Despite its rich oil wealth, the country is regularly plagued by energy blackouts.

The World Bank estimates that the developing world will need upwards of $100 billion to respond to climate change. African countries are asking for $65 billion in aid in fighting this major threat, but with much of the world's treasuries at or near life support, such a pledge is unlikely.

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