World leaders are meeting in Paris this week for the COP 21 meeting. There is a lot of optimism in the air for action. I think for a long time, there’s been more talk than action and it is quite a relief when you hear the biggest culprits like Obama and the Chinese premier finally acknowledging their roles in pushing up global temperatures and embracing their responsibilities in bringing a solution to the matter. This is the first time global leaders have actually shown real commitment to climate change matters. Most likely it could be due to the fact that there hasn’t been much improvement since COP 01 in Berlin, 21 years ago. When you see the pope beginning to make humble pleas with nations to act on climate change, things are not looking really good. We still hear cases of the impact of climate change all over the world. Folks in low lying island nations still complain of rising sea levels and a future possibility of their countries being sunk in water. In Africa, the weather patterns have changed affecting our economies. Extreme weather conditions that have no economic benefits continue to persist. As a result, climate change should be a concern to you and not left only to the world leaders to think about. Here’re three reasons why I think we all need to show concern:
For most of us Africans, agriculture supports our economies. We are used to weather patterns that dictates how we plant, what we plant, and when we harvest. When these weather patterns are disrupted by extreme weather conditions, we experience crop failure. For instance, when it rains, it rains heavily (the El Niño type) thereby destroying crops, livestock and other sources of livelihood. Other areas that never used to be prone to drought are now experiencing droughts. This should be enough of a reason to make noise and tell these industrialized nations to reduce their emission levels, and that whatever benefits they got from the industrial boom should be used to reduce extreme poverty in areas feeling the effect of climate change brought about by their actions.
The root cause of the climate change problem is the industrial boom in the last century. Industrialized nations made a lot of capital gain from this boom but emitted (and still continue to emit) enough greenhouse gasses to cause the climate to change. For us Africans, we are trying to develop. Our contribution to the global emission levels is very small. If we increase our emission levels in the name of development, it is dangerous to us. If we reduce it, we will still get the effect from the high emissions by developed countries, making it only practical if the big contributors reduce emissions and stop holding our development at ransom.
I like what Bill Gates is doing in Africa. The guy is committed to seeing malaria eliminated. But it is sad to know that with rising temperatures, especially in the tropical highland regions of the world, his dream may not be realized. Mosquitoes survive in certain temperature range. When diseases like malaria continue to thrive in Africa, development and improvement of livelihood will take place at a tortoise pace.
In the long term, all these three concerns simply spell trouble for Africans. I believe there is hope. There are actions we can take to manage or reduce these challenges. For instance, Irrigation is a perfect solution to the unreliability of natural rains but on a large scale it is a huge investment project. Our economies can develop fast with clean energy and I know there is a lot of focus in this direction. Bill Gates and his friends can continue to pump money to support the general public health in African. However, the whole idea is to have wealthy nations reduce their emission levels, remain committed to it, and pay the countries unfairly bearing the consequences of their actions. As we wait for agreements to be reached in this year’s conference in Paris, all eyes focus on these developed nations.