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News24.com | ON THE RECORD | Gear up for more extreme weather events, climate experts warn

South Africans will have to live with a proliferation of extreme weather events similar to the 2022 floods that inundated KwaZulu-Natal unless greenhouse gases are radically reduced, climate experts have said. 

The world has already warmed a global average of 1.1 degrees Celsius since the start of industrialisation, Chris Trisos of the Climate Risk Lab at the African Climate and Development Initiative told News24’s On The Record event in Cape Town.  

The panel considered a range of ways for SA to cut emissions – from transitioning away from coal on a national level and subsidising a massive rollout of solar panels on roofs to green loans and establishing small “micro-grids” in rural areas. 

Campaigns like planting trees to sequester carbon dioxide may be useful, but Trisos warned that trees take decades to mature and time is running out. 

If the current trends continue, global temperatures will rise by an average of 1.5 degrees within a decade, he said.

To halt the rise, the world needed to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40% to 50% by the end of the decade. 

Pictured from left to right: Lameez Omarjee, sustainability reporter at News24; Dr Chris Trisos, director of the Climate Risk Lab at UCT, Kumi Naidoo human rights and climate justice activist; Ayakha Melithafa, youth commissioner on the Presidential Climate Commission and Arvana Singh, head of sustainable finance solutions at Nedbank.

Trisos said that, as temperatures have risen, extreme weather events such as massive floods and deadly heat waves have become more common. 

Humans will be able to adapt to a 1.5-degree rise, but action needs to be taken now to stop it from getting worse. 

“We know we can do it at 1.5 degrees,” he said. But every 0.1 degrees over this would make it tougher. 

Climate justice activist Kumi Naidoo said events like the floods that devastated KwaZulu-Natal and killed over 400 people last year would become more common unless global temperate were kept in check.  

“All of us as parents and grandparents here are thinking about insurance policies for our children,” he said. 


Several homes built along the Quarry road river bank in Durban were damaged by severe flooding.


A resident from the Palmiet River informal settlement in Durban digs through rubble after chaotic floods devastated parts of the city. (Chanté Schatz, News24)

kzn floods

What remains of houses in Phoenix, Durban, after floods wreaked havoc in KwaZulu-Natal. Photo.

Rosetta Msimango

“The best insurance policy for our children is to educate yourself fully about the threat of climate change and become a climate activist.”

Ayakha Melithafa, a youth commissioner on the Presidential Climate Commission, said South Africans should fight against climate fatalism. “What we are hearing out there is making us what to run away,” she said. 

“We need to find ways to make it better. There is hope in this country. I can make a difference”.  

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