Al Gore jokes with Cape Verde's name (verde means green in Portuguese), stating that it is sandy and dry, with very little anual rainfall. His mind might probably be in Greenland, which was really green in the past. The truth is that Cape Verde's name is derived from Cap-Vert, a peninsula in Senegal, the westernmost point of the continent of Africa, 350 miles to the east of Cape Verde islands.
Al Gore should have checked the facts first. In the past, we will start with Charles Darwin's The Voyage of the Beagle. The initial part of the first chapter is dedicated to Cape Verde. When Darwin got there, these were his first impressions:
|On the 16th of January, 1832, we anchored at Porto Praya, in St. Jago, the chief island of the Cape de Verd archipelago.|
The neighbourhood of Porto Praya, viewed from the sea, wears a desolate aspect. The volcanic fires of a past age, and the scorching heat of a tropical sun, have in most places rendered the soil unfit for vegetation.
Next, Darwin gives an idea of what the climate was almost two hundred years ago:
|The island would generally be considered as very uninteresting, but to anyone accustomed only to an English landscape, the novel aspect of an utterly sterile land possesses a grandeur|
which more vegetation might spoil. A single green leaf can scarcely be discovered over wide tracts of the lava plains; yet flocks of goats, together with a few cows, contrive to exist. It rains very seldom, but during a short portion of the year heavy torrents fall, and immediately afterwards a light vegetation springs out of every crevice. This soon withers; and upon such naturally formed hay the animals live. It had not now rained for an entire year.
You get an idea of what climate change is, two hundred years later, in Gore's own words:
|When you only get a few days of rain a year, like some of the islands in Cape Verde, any change in climate is a big deal. Cape Verde is expected to get warmer and drier, worsening existing water shortages.|
Droughts are a well known fatality in Cape Verde, and over a 100000 people starved to death in the 18th and 19th centuries, long before CO2 started rising. Gore is also afraid that this tiny nation is vulnerable to flooding from storms and sea level rise. He should check out the facts relating to the Cape Verde hotspot uplift history.
Sea level rise will have little impact in Cape Verde. The volcanic islands are small and mountainous. Bigger risk areas include the lower parts of Mindelo, Praia, and other smaller places, like Baía das Gatas. But it would take several meters of sea rise to have any visible impact, and what we're seeing lately is sea level rise rate dropping.
Precipitation was very high in 2009, with flooding. Last year, precipitation was also high. The weather forecasts for West Africa this year indicate the likelihood of plentiful rains in Cape Verde. Given the track record for other recent years (2007) (2008) (2009) (2010), the "Gore effect" might just kick in right on time, September 14th!
Flash floods are typically a problem when it rains a lot. But Climate Change is not related; instead, human occupation of the ground is to blame, as can be seen in the photos in this portuguese paper, where dry rivers have been leveled as soccer fields! But the problem has been minimized in several locations, notably in Santa Cruz, with the Poilão dam, which became full in September 2009, in a month with much precipitation. The success of Poilão was the beginning of the construction of several other dams in Cape Verde (1) (2). Cape Verde will finally start turning green!