THE REPUBLIC OF South Africa has a land area of 471,443 sq. mi. (1,221,037 sq. km.), with a population of 48,577,000 (2006 est.) and a population density of 101 people per sq. mi. (39 people per sq. km.). Some 10 percent of the country is devoted to arable purposes, with a further 67 percent used as meadows and pasture, much of it for low-intensity grazing of cattle and goats. Only 7 percent of the country is forested.
As the nation is a major producer of coal, some 92.6 percent of South Africa's electricity production comes from fossil fuels, with 6.7 percent from nuclear power and 0.7 percent from hydropower. In spite of its location, South Africa has made little use of solar power. In 1990, South Africa produced 7.8 metric tons per capita of carbon dioxide, and this level of emissions remained relatively stable until 2003, rising to 9.2 metric tons per capita in the following year. Coal and other solid fuels contribute to 80 percent of the country's carbon dioxide emissions, with 18 percent being from liquid fuels and 1 percent from gaseous fuels. By sector, 63 percent of South Africa's carbon dioxide emissions come from the generating of electricity, with 21 percent from manufacturing and 13 percent from transport.
Recently observed climates in South Africa, possibly attributable to global warming, include the following: The temperature of the Benguela Current has recently been increasing, resulting in a decrease in the fishing catch off the coast of the country. This, in turn, has led to a significant reduction in the diversity of species of fish in the region. In January 2000, following one of the driest Decembers on record, with many days having temperatures above 104 degrees F (40 degrees C), there were many bush fires along the coast of the Western Cape, leading to the destruction of woodland and other vegetation.
The South African government of Frederik W. de Klerk took part in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, signed in Rio de Janeiro in May 1992. They accepted the Kyoto Protocol to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change on July 31, 2002, with it entering into force on February 16, 2005. In August 2005, Marthinus van Schalkwyk, the environmental affairs minister for South Africa, attended a week-long ministerial meeting in Greenland to discuss what became dubbed the Greenland Dialogue to examine further ways of making the Kyoto Protocol more effective.
SEE ALSo: Carbon Dioxide; Climate Change, Effects.
BIBLioGRAPHY. Douglas H. Chadwick, "A Place for Parks," National Geographic (v.190/1, July 1996); Clive Grylls, "Return of the World," Geographical (v.78/12, December
2006); Michael E. Meadows and Timm M. Hoffman, "Land Degradation and Climate Change in South Africa" The Geographical Journal (v.169/2, 2003); "SA Faces up to Global Warming," http://www.southafrica.info/ess_info/sa_glance/ sustainable/update/climate-190805.htm (cited October
2007); Kennedy Warne, "Oceans of Plenty," National Geographic (v.202/2, August 2002); World Resources Institute, "South Africa—Climate and Atmosphere," http://earth-trends.wri.org (cited October 2007).
JuSTIN CORFIELD Geelong Grammar School, Australia
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