Climate change describes larger than normal variability in weather and climate parameters, especially rainfall and temperature. Global warming is a feature of climate change around which much debate and controversy has been generated by critics and cynics.
For some in the west,
the existence of winters, some blistering, is sufficient evidence that
climate change and global warming is ridiculous. But here in out part of
the world, as in most of the global south, there is no room for debate.
We know from the projections of climate change impacts as well as from
everyday experience that Africa will bear the brunt of climate change.
in Africa, climate change will reduce yields of most staple foods,
especially grains and tuber crops. Lower grain yields and food price
spikes could lead to a 20 per cent rise in malnutrition among African
children. Variable rainfall patterns are likely to constrain fresh water
supply, compromising hygiene and increasing the risk of water-borne
diseases, which kill over one million children under five years of age.
Climate change is creating the perfect storm, with pandemics
invigorated by warmer climate, water scarcity, hunger and malnutrition,
poverty and changes in disease vector ecology.
The cost of
responding to climate change impacts will be steep. According to WHO,
the direct cost to health, excluding costs in agriculture, water and
sanitation, is projected to reach $2-4 billion annually by 2030. The
World Bank estimates that $75 billion will be needed annually to deal
with the impacts of climate change such as tropical diseases, decline in
agricultural productivity and damage to infrastructure owing to
Evidently, the cost adaptation or mitigation,
are well beyond the budgetary capacity of most African governments. It
is easy to say we did not foul the atmosphere and argue that
responsibility must be common but differentiated to account for the fact
that the industrial west and China must cut emissions and meet the cost
of adaptation and mitigation.
Such arguments are sensible and
compelling but also simplistic and irresponsible. Here is a simple
illustration to make the point. Your kids are asleep in the house. Your
neighbor deliberately or inadvertently starts a fire in his compound and
all you do is yell out at him from your backyard to come into your
house, which smoldering, and put off the fire. It is because of such
arguments that we have been stuck with the Kyoto Protocol for over 20
years, as the planet got warmer.
Climate change is an
existential threat to “Our Common Future”, which requires much greater
responsibility at individual, community, national and global levels to
return our planet on a path of equitable and sustainable development.
This is not the time to engage in philosophical or moral debates about
who is the greater or lesser polluter. This moment calls for urgent and
aggressive action by not just individuals or nations but by all citizens
of the world and all nations.
Africa has a choice. Do we yell
from our backyard, haranguing the west and China, as hundreds of
millions of Africans face misery and death from more severe and frequent
drought, floods, hunger, disease and war over dwindling farmland,
pasture and water?
Africa must go to CoP21 with a set of
realistic and actionable proposals or Intended Nationally Determined
Contribution (INDC), which underscore a sense of duty to the fierce
urgency of now. We cannot afford to wait on the west or China to finance
the cost of mitigation or adaptation for us.
Africa must show
through its development policy priorities that we are committed to
achieving a low carbon and climate resilient development. Kenya’s
Climate Change Bill 2014 provides a legal and institutional framework
for mitigation and adaption to the effects of climate change;
coordination mechanism for formulation of programs and plans to enhance
the resilience of human and ecological systems against the impacts of
Moreover, Kenya’s green growth plans are
exemplified by investments in in geothermal energy generation, promotion
of solar lanterns and establishment of a sub-national adaptation fund
(County Climate Change Fund). Adequate and sustained budgetary and
institutional resources must be made available to support these plans.
importantly, we all have a moral obligation as citizens of the world
to act responsibly and preserve the planet for posterity. CoP21 must be
about what you and I can do curb global warming.