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In 2017, when the drought in Cape Town was at its worst in over a century, aid organisation Gift of the Givers made an urgent call to South Africans to help farmers; suicide rates, amongst both small- and large-scale farmers, had surged in the few months prior. This and other evidence paints a bleak future picture in the context of climate change, and southern Africa is one of the areas that will suffer the most.
So say Professor Matthew Chersich and Dr. Fiona Scorgie in the Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute (Wits RHI), who have been studying the effects of climate change on adolescents.
Today - Youth - World - Greenhouse - Gases
"Today's youth will inherit a world made hazardous by greenhouse gases. The world's temperature has already risen by 1°C above pre-industrial levels and, without major intervention, will rise a further 0.5°C by 2040. Heat waves and other extreme weather events have become frequent and intense. In southern Africa, temperatures are expected to rise at twice the global rate, creating virtually intolerable conditions for people in settings where buildings are poorly insulated and ventilated," says Scorgie.
The effects are so severe, in fact, that Chersich predicts an increase in violence, mental health disorders, and suicide, as well as poorer matric pass rates, if nothing is done.
Exposure - Temperatures - Physiology - Anxiety - Symptoms
"Exposure to high temperatures alters one's physiology, raising anxiety, depressive symptoms, irritability and aggression. People feel powerless when they have no means of keeping cool, when they can neither fight nor flee the hot weather. The effects will be most pronounced amongst those who can't afford air conditioning and we have no idea how communities who are not acclimatised to high temperatures will cope with several days of 40 plus degrees in houses with tin walls and roofs, zero insulation, and no cold water."
And when learners must write matric in overcrowded and stuffy prefabricated...
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