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Key findings
  • About half (49%) of Zambians say droughts have become more severe in their region over the past decade, a proportion that has almost doubled since 2017. Only 30% say the same about floods.
  • Fewer than half (44%) of Zambians say they have heard of climate change.
  • Awareness of climate change is particularly low among rural residents, women, poor citizens, and less educated respondents. It is significantly higher among frequent news consumers than among those who rarely follow the news.
  • Twice as many Zambians approve as disapprove of the government’s performance on climate change (40% vs. 19%), while many (41%) say they “don’t know.”

This year’s deadly flooding – described as Zambia’s worst in half a century – put the weather in the news again, joining tropical storms and prolonged drought among the growing threats posed by climate change (VOA, 2023; National Assembly of Zambia, 2022; Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, 2020; Care, 2023). Zambia ranks among the world’s countries highest in vulnerability and lowest in resilience to climate change, according to the ND-GAIN Country Index (Notre Dame Global Adaptation Initiative, 2020).

The country’s dependence on rainfed agriculture, which employs two-thirds of the workforce, and on hydropower make it particularly vulnerable to climate shocks, threatening food production, electricity supply, and economic growth (Tembo, 2020; Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources, 2020; Kalantary, 2010).

The government of Zambia has committed itself to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol, and has integrated climate- change interventions in its Vision 2030 and successive five-year national development plans and programmes. Its 2017 National Climate Change Policy seeks to coordinate a national response to promote sustainable development (Policy Monitoring and Research Centre, 2017; Ministry of National Development Planning, 2016).

Findings from the most recent Afrobarometer survey show that fewer than half of Zambians have heard of climate change. Those who are aware of climate change are firmly behind government action to address the crisis, even at significant economic cost. They see addressing climate change as a collective responsibility, and they want greater engagement on the issue by the government, business and industry, more developed nations, and ordinary citizens.

Overwhelmingly, Zambians familiar with climate change say it is making life in their country worse.

Edward Chibwili

Edward Chibwili is the national investigator for Zambia.