The BBC reports today that Zimbabwe is chopping 12 zeroes off of its bank notes. This means that a Z$1 trillion note will now be worth Z$1. This hyperinflation, with annual inflation rates in the millions, is an ongoing tragedy that has devastated what was once one of the strongest states in Africa. Let me be clear, climate change is not responsible for a 1 trillion dollar bank note (this was a human-caused catastrophe), it could be a cause in the future of similar disasters in Africa.
Unfortunately, massive state-level failures, like Zimbabwe's hyperinflation, happen far too often across the continent. While there have been notable exceptions, like Ghana's recent election, too often the news is about war in Sudan, piracy in Somalia, a botched election in Kenya, or war crimes in the Congo.
Into this combustible mix, we will throw the very real threat of a warmer climate. The IPCC's 2007 chapter on Africa explains the particular and unique vulnerability of Africa to climate change. Fully 1/3 of Africans already live in already drought prone areas, and climate change will aggravate that problem. Furthermore, the IPCC makes clear that Africa's poverty and its political divisions will undermine many efforts to adapt to climate change.
However, in Africa, it will seldom be clear whether any single problem, whether it's hyperinflation, piracy, famine, or crop failure, are related to global warming. Rather, it will become clear that climate change will be just one of the many factors, included among poverty, disease, lack of clean water, economic isolation, corruption, and many others which could be underlying causes for Africa's misery. As the IPCC says: "The impact of climate variability and change on food security therefore cannot be considered independently of the broader issue of human security."
There are so many problems that Africa faces, and the challenges of climate change will only make each of them worse.