The second edition of an atlas showing South Africa’s vulnerability to climate change has been launched in Johannesburg, to help the country’s economic and social sectors take informed decisions to avoid risks related to climate change.


Developed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), an entity of the Department of Science and Technology (DST), the South African Risk and Vulnerability Atlas (SARVA) disseminates spatial and non-spatial data that describes, assesses and evaluates the risks and vulnerabilities facing the country due to climate change.


Designed to ensure that existing knowledge on global change risks and vulnerabilities is available to those who could benefit from its use, the hard copy is supported by a portal, SARVA 3.0, which is an online spatial database that directly supports users and allows free access to useful information on the impact of climate change to industries and society.


South Africa is facing an increased frequency of extreme weather events such as droughts, dry spells, heat waves and severe thunderstorms. These have the potential to increase vector-borne diseases and lead to food, energy and water insecurity, which will consequently threaten livelihoods.


In recent years, the country has experienced an El Nino-related drought reported to be one of the most worst meteorological droughts since 1904, with the average rainfall at this period in late 2014-2016 being 403mm compared to 608mm over the last 112 years.


El Ninos are associated with the warming up of the Pacific Ocean, which is normally at a rate of 0.01% but has increased to a rate of 0.1% and the danger of exceeding the 1% critical threshold is imminent.


Of critical importance is the need for planners and decision-makers to move from reactive crisis management approaches to proactive climate change and disaster risk management approaches. According to the Financial and Fiscal Commission report, the 20 most vulnerable municipalities in South Africa are rural, small towns and secondary cities.


Speaking at the launch, the DST Deputy Director-General: Socio-Economic Innovation Partnerships, Mr Imraan Patel said the atlas was a science policy initiative of the DST’s Global Change, and was a repository of the most up to date information to support decision-making at local and national levels in South Africa.


“In a data driven world, the importance of analytical tools that can make sense of the plethora of data is self-evident. Proper analysis and the capacity to use such information will inform the innovation and technological improvements that enable South Africa to implement its nationally determined contributions to combat climate change,” said Mr Patel, adding that the atlas could serve as an educational tool to provide evidence of potential impacts of climate to communities and decision-makers.,


CSIR Natural Resources and Environment Executive Director, May Hermanus, said increasingly, settlements are becoming vulnerable to risks through swelling poverty, lack of basic services and human rights, and their extension into unsafe land.


“Their vulnerabilities are expected to increase due to the high levels of informal housing and the lack of efficient management of these growth areas. Rural areas are particularly vulnerable due to their dependency on climate-sensitive resources such as water and an agrarian landscape,” said Hermanus. However, climate change will affect livelihoods beyond living conditions and infrastructure.


She said that it was important for government, business and research institutions to work together in responding to these issues immediately, towards South Africa’s sustainable development.


Supporting this initiative is the National Business Initiative, to ensure the business sector is able to take appropriate steps in this regard. NBI Programme Manager, Alex McNamara, said economic sectors such as mining and agriculture that depended greatly on natural resources to generate income and employment would be severely affected by the impacts of climate change.


He said climate change was affecting businesses in many ways including the interruption of operations, health and safety of employees and communities. “Business is and must remain at the forefront of adaptation planning, including the financing and implementation of solutions.”


For more interviews and information, please contact:

David Mandaha, CSIR Media Manager, 012 841 3654 or 072 126 8910, email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Veronica Mohapeloa, 012 843-6788/ 083 4005750 and Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.