“Other countries have floods, but they have infrastructure to deal with them. In KwaZulu-Natal and the rest of South Africa, the ANC just steals public funds and leaves us to perish. #KZNFloods are not caused by climate change, they are caused by the ANC,” a tweet shared with us reads.
This was a reply to a post on April 13, 2022, by the South Africa Climate News, which reported about the floods in Kwazulu-Natal.
“Climate change” refers to long-term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns. These shifts may be natural, such as through variations in the solar cycle. But since the 1800s, human activities have been the main driver of climate change, primarily due to the burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil, and gas, according to the United Nations.
Some of the effects caused by climate change include heavy rains that cause floods, prolonged droughts, and severe storms, among others, as listed by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC.)
South Africa is among the African countries that have been hit by the impacts of climate change. Among these are the floods that are being talked about in the claim above. In 2022 alone, the International Disaster Database, or EM-DAT data, shows there were eight flood disasters that occurred in South Africa. All these were caused by heavy rains, and Kwazulu-Natal had four floods.
Heavy rains are linked to climate change, and this is because higher temperatures increase the amount of energy in the Earth's system. “A warmer ocean and air temperature and increased moisture in the atmosphere lead to increased evaporation and cloud formation, increasing precipitation intensity, duration, and frequency," the United Nations Environment Programme states in an article on how climate change is causing floods.
The South African Weather Service reported that the lowest and highest average temperatures in Kwazulu-Natal in 2022 were 10.4 °C and 26.9 °C, respectively.
"South Africa as a whole had a warm year; the annual mean temperature anomaly for 2022, based on the data of 26 climate stations, was generally about 0.4 °C above the average of the reference period (1991-2020), making it roughly the fourth hottest year on record since 1951.”
According to the report, the nation experienced an average warming trend of 0.16 °C per decade from 1951 to 2022, which is statistically significant at the 5% level.
This indicates that as temperatures rose, moisture levels rose as well, resulting in heavy rains. On April 11, 2022, an excess of 300 mm of rainfall was recorded in a 24-hour period in the KwaZulu Natal province, meaning that in an hour there was more than 12 mm of rainfall.
Although there is no universally accepted definition of what constitutes heavy rainfall, the World Meteorological Organization says that rates of more than 4 mm per hour are considered heavy rain, while rates of more than 10 mm per hour are considered heavy showers. Showers are further categorised as violent if the rate exceeds 50 mm per hour, even though these are typically thought of as rates typical for tropical regions.
“Floods occur in the province of KwaZulu-Natal due to natural climate variability, like heavy rains, and many communities live below flood lines along river banks and on steep slopes. Rivers such as the Mgeni and Mvoti that traverse the larger Durban area have long been known to cause severe flooding during periods of heavy rainfall,” researchers from the Global Change Institute, University of the Witwatersrand, and the Institute for Security Studies state in an article published by the Institute for Security Studies on May 12, 2022.
With this evidence, it is not true that climate change did not play a role in the Kwazulu-Natal floods of 2022. KwaZulu-Natal is a coastal South African province, and due to the hot temperatures caused by the changing climate, it leads to an increase in precipitation and heavy rains that cause floods in Kwazulu-Natal and other parts of the country.