Ghana's vulnerability to climate change is in large part defined by its exposure to the various impacts with droughts, floods, and sea erosion as the main drivers. Climate change in Ghana has become a threat to livelihoods. Drought and over flooding has become a yearly worry to the people and government. People along the banks of the Volta river are constantly displaced, homeless and landless. In the South, particularly aquatic life is affected as a result of human activities and sea level rise that pollutes water bodies and the main economic activity which is fishing drops and this has affected the income levels of the people. The climate change impacts in Northern part of Ghana results in severe draughts in the dry season, severe floods, high temperatures, influx of pest and diseases taking away human life and property as well as famine if measures are not put in place.
Technologically, Africa has not been very innovative in curbing the effects, for instance green technology and the use of electric cars is gaining grounds in Europe and North America as a whole, as ways of reducing negative impacts of climate change. The individual African whose entire livelihood is dependent on our natural resources has no options than to face the severe damages from climate effects in the form of severe draughts, floods, high temperatures, influx of pest and disease among others.
Vulnerability in all sectors of the Ghanaian economy and among households result from both climate-induced and socio-politico-economic drivers. Vulnerability in the context of climate change is the consequent fall in wellbeing attributed to the change simply because people are unable to cope and adapt positively without adverse effects. Two sides of vulnerability are worth noting: the first is the extent to which an area is susceptible to unfavorable climate impact changes, and the second is the adaptive capacity of local population. The vulnerability of a society is influenced by its development path, physical exposures, the distribution of resources, prior stresses and social and government institutions (Adjer et al. 2007). Vulnerability to climate change in Ghana is spatially and socially differentiated. Each ecological zone has peculiar physical and socio-economic characteristics that define their sensitivity and resilience to climate change impacts. Poverty is a good indicator of resilience, while occupation and location determine sensitivity, though occupation and location define poverty. Poverty reduces the capacity of people in meeting climate challenges and leading sustainable livelihoods. Generally, rural areas compared to urban areas harbor the bulk of Ghana’s poor. Climate seems to have a relationship with poverty levels with the exception of the coastal savannah whose economy is highly urbanized. This correlation is the result of high dependence of a majority of the people on natural resource-based activities. Drier areas such as the savannahs are more risky and vulnerable to climate change and variability than wetter areas. However, the drivers of vulnerability due to climate change are gradually penetrating the better ecological zones aided by non-climate drivers of vulnerability. Droughts are a major problem for the northern and coastal savannahs with increasing significance for the transitional zone. Climate variability in terms of fluctuating weather conditions increases the vulnerability of the bulk of the population who depend on natural resource based activities for their living. Variability of rainfall has serious consequences for farmers in the transition and forest zones where slight changes in weather conditions affect cocoa and fruits such as pineapples, mangos, papaya etc. Environmental change emerging through the driver of climate change inflicts harsh and extreme environmental conditions upon rural smallholder farmers and therefore has direct implications for creating unsustainable livelihoods. Farmers have their investments washed down the drain by floods and droughts almost every second or third year, especially in the northern savannah zone. The severity of climate change impacts is felt mostly by poorer groups depending on natural resource-based activities and living in marginal environments. The socio-economic groups affected most by climate change include small-scale food crop farmers, women small-scale farmers, Livestock operators, fishermen and fishmongers, slum dwellers, and migrant farm workers. These groups are vulnerable due mostly to institutional bottlenecks, legal frameworks, poor capacities and market imperfections. These non-climate drivers of vulnerability define the access patterns of different people in different places to productive resources which builds resilience and adaptive capacity. Migration and urban vulnerability constitute important dimensions of climate change in Ghana. The increasing rate of migration is attributable to both climate change and socio-economic vulnerabilities. The northern regions and parts of Volta region have substantial numbers of their population moving to the wetter south and urban areas. Increasing weather extremes will exacerbate these movements with consequences of creating open spaces and concentrating populations especially in urban areas where vulnerability to flooding, diseases, heat waves, poor water supply are aided by poor urban planning and poor infrastructure provision. The major characteristics of these groups that make them prone to climate change impacts are the dependence on nature using poor technology.
The poor adaptive capacity is the result of poverty due mainly to poor assets, poor institutions, poor markets, poor physical infrastructure and eroding social support systems. The focus of adaptation should begin with the most vulnerable to climate change impacts and up-scaled to the other groups, rather than enforcing the interest of the few elite. Generally, the future of the country depends on the ability to cope with these climate risks and realise opportunities that propel sustainable livelihoods, reduce poverty and increase national growth. Inability to reduce Ghana’s vulnerability by reducing exposure and building adaptive capacity will result in unsustainable livelihoods with consequences of food insecurity, poverty and environmental degradation. These in turn will further increase vulnerability of human and physical systems to harsher impacts of climate change.
Measures to minimize the impacts of climate are reactionary. Generally, government and the citizenry at large have not been proactive in putting adaptation mechanism in place to minimize the impacts of climate change. There are scientific evidences to demonstrate (i) rising temperatures, (ii) declining rainfall totals and variability, (iii) rising sea levels and (iv) high incidence of weather extremes and disasters. These are increasingly projected to have a disastrous impact on all facets of the Ghanaian populace now and in the future. There is high risk associated with farming owing to the high unpredictability of rainfall. Investments in agriculture are therefore becoming expensive, risky and less profitable.
Some of the key challenges can be itemized as follows:
- Poor and Inadequate Infrastructure
- Inadequate climate information center • Poor information delivery services • Weak operational and well-resourced Research and development systems • Inadequate climate change education into school curriculum • Inadequate health education and awareness creation• Relationships between scientific knowledge and traditional or indigenous knowledge is weak • Absence of proper flood management systems
- Limited Human Resource Capacity • Improper farming methods leading to compaction of the soil which restricts infiltration• Improper disposal of solid waste that could choke drains and exacerbate flooding conditions• Land degradation along the river banks
- Weak sub-regional network
- Inadequate financial resources/Low budgetary allocation • Need for policy and budgetary allocation for climate change research and education
- Flooding •Siltation of river beds • High rainfall in a short period generating high run-off • Settlements, farms etc. located in flood plains
- Drought •deforestation •long dry season •scanty rainfall
- General • Lack of framework, inadequate human and financial capacity and logistics for the water resources management in the river basins. • Inadequate water harvesting systems. •Farming along the river banks causing siltation and reducing the carrying and storage capacities of the rivers. • Higher temperatures, in combination with favorable rainfall patterns, could prolong disease transmission seasons in some locations where certain diseases already exist. In other locations, climate change will decrease transmission via reductions in rainfall or temperatures that are too high for transmission.