Impacts of Climate Change on Health and Wellbeing in South Africa

Impacts of climate change

Impacts of Climate Change on Health and Wellbeing in South Africa

The impacts of climate change can be felt around the world but particularly in Africa. The Earth’s elements, which include air, water, and land, are all tied to the climate as we know it. Any slight rise in the global mean temperature over a long period can set off an upward spiral of climate change across the planet.


Drought can result from too little rain, while floods can result from too much rain. More hot days throughout the year can cause crop drying and harm to livestock, crops, and people. Individuals in many regions will find it difficult to adapt to the changing environment. Everyone is concerned about the impact of climate change but in this piece, let’s look at how it affects health and wellbeing in South Africa.


South Africa has a typically warm climate, with colder temperatures in high-altitude areas. Low and high temperatures have become more intense in recent decades, all these are impacts of a changing climate.

Strong waves and severe storms, as well as growing urbanization, have an impact on the country’s wide coastline. Water scarcity is one of South Africa’s most pressing climate change concerns.


The warmer temperatures and unpredictable rainfall will boost evaporation and reduce stream flows, both of which will have a detrimental impact on water storage systems. Heat and energy production account for the majority of South Africa’s greenhouse gas emissions, contributing greatly to climate change.


Given the related prevalence of disease, the impact of climate change in South Africa might be redefined as primarily a health issue requiring immediate health-sector intervention. The increasing impact of climate change has serious repercussions for South Africans’ health and well-being, particularly for the country’s various disadvantaged populations.


South Africa experienced the lowest yearly rainfall since 1904. In that exact year, Cape Town experienced its highest temperature in the last 100 years at 42°C, and the absence of rain and exceptionally high temperatures contributed to some of the city’s deadliest fires. In addition, the Western Cape endured the most severe drought in decades in 2017/2018, threatening its water security. The country is now dealing with drought and water scarcity.

As of last year, the Western Cape Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning predicted that the impact of climate change will be felt in the Western Cape in several ways such as:

  • Higher yearly average temperature.
  • Maximum temperatures that are higher.
  • More scorching days and heat waves.
  • Increased minimum temperatures.
  • Fewer frosty and cold days.
  • Average rainfall in the Western Cape, notably in the western sections, will decrease.
  • Increasing sea levels
  • Increased fire danger
  • Extreme weather events such as floods, droughts, and storm surges will become more frequent and intense.


Impacts of Climate Change on Health and Wellbeing in South Africa and How to Mitigate It


Climate change has the potential to impact the quality of air we breathe both indoors and outdoors. Warmer temperatures and fluctuating weather patterns can wreak havoc on air quality, leading to an increase in asthma attacks and other lung and cardiovascular health issues. There is also the impact of wildfires, which produce smoke and other harmful air pollutants. Rising CO2 levels and warmer temperatures also have an impact on airborne allergies.


Another impact of climate change on health is vector-borne diseases, which are illnesses spread by disease vectors such as mosquitoes, ticks, and fleas. Infectious pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, and protozoa can be transmitted from animals to people via these vectors. Temperature, precipitation, and extreme weather events expand the geographic range of diseases conveyed by vectors and can cause illness.

In South Africa, research has found that high temperatures are connected with hostility, hostile behavior, and homicides, which can rise by 18% when temperatures are above 30 degrees.


The impact of climate change can be seen as flood displacement is expected to spike by 50% with every one-degree Celsius rise in temperature. Research on climate change migration in an unplanned urban settlement discovered that individuals who migrated owing to climate-induced factors such as heat waves, droughts, and flooding suffer from a lack of mental well-being such as identity, sense of belonging, and honor. Displacement has an impact on one’s emotional well-being, livelihood, and access to basic services.

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