Africa contributes least to global climate change, but is bearing the brunt of the phenomenon that is expected to exacerbate food shortages in the long term, scientists warned on Thursday.

Global warming has been blamed for increased cycles of drought across Africa, where millions this year face hunger and starvation.

Yet the world’s poorest continent has the lowest levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions, scientists said at a conference in Nairobi.

“Poor developing countries are least developed to adapt to climate change, although most of them play and certainly will continue to play an insignificant role in causing it,” said Shem Wandiga, chairman of the climate change research group System for Research Analysis and Training (START).

Extreme weather patterns, caused by climate change and leading to drought, will trigger deepening food shortages in Africa where most people rely on rain-fed crops to survive, Wandiga said.

“Climate change will exacerbate hunger, which now affects about 50 percent of our population,” he said. “Above all, climate change will worsen poverty on the continent.”

In the long term, climate change will force foreign donors to pay more to feed Africa’s hungry and add to the current $6 billion spent by humanitarian agencies, Wandiga said.

A United Nations official said Africa’s many conflicts also had a dire impact on the environment.

“The problems of refugees, the declining governance structures in some countries continue to exact a toll on the environment,” said Seko Toure, Africa regional director of United Nations Environment Programme.

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