Friday, January 21, 2011

Dora Byamukama on The Truth and Consequences of Climate Change in Africa, and what we can do

image of globe featuring Africa front and center is from here
To listen to women of color globally means you get how interconnected the following are: economics, environmental issues, men's violence against women, racism, and heterosexism.

What follows is from New Vision Online, except the small photograph, which is from *here*. Please click on the title below to link back.

Climate change is upon us

By Dora Byamukama


IN the recent past, it was possible to predict with some degree of certainty when the wet and dry seasons were expected. This made it relatively easy for farmers to plan for planting, weeding and harvesting. Currently, the weather is less predictable. All this goes to show that there is climate change.

Changing weather patterns spell doom for humanity because this, among other things, contributes to food insecurity and negatively impacts on economies which heavily rely on agriculture such as most of those on the African continent.

Climate change is defined as a long-term change in the statistical distribution of weather patterns over periods of time that range from decades to millions of years. It may be a change in the average weather conditions or in the distribution of weather events with respect to an average, for example, greater or fewer extreme weather events.

There are various causes of climate change which include greenhouse gas emissions, such as those emitted by the manufacturing and construction sector; generation of electricity and heating and the transport sector. There is burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil and gas to support the various sectors. This burning of fossil fuels greatly increases the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases, trapping more of the sun's energy near the Earth's surface. In response, our planet is warming at an unprecedented rate and ecosystems such as forests and swamps are changing. Forests are steadily disappearing and swamps drying up.

Many nations have adopted policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but a comprehensive and effective international climate treaty remains part of a continuing debate.

Solutions to dealing with the challenge of climate change include activities aimed at mitigation or at adaptation, among others. Mitigation is human intervention to reduce the sources or enhance the sinks of greenhouse gases. Examples include using fossil fuels more efficiently for industrial processes or electricity generation, switching to renewable energy such as solar energy or wind power, improving the insulation of buildings, and expanding forests and other 'sinks' to remove greater amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

It should be noted that even the most effective reductions in greenhouse gas emissions would not prevent further climate change impacts thus making the need for adaptation unavoidable. Adaptation is a response to climate change that seeks to reduce the vulnerability of natural and human systems to climate change effects. It is acknowledged that even if greenhouse gas emissions are stabilised relatively soon, climate change and its effects will last many years, and adaptation will be necessary.

Communities I visited, such as those living in the Nandi hills of Kenya and the Mt. Elgon region have undertaken activities that promote environmental protection and improve livelihoods. These include beekeeping in forests; manufacture of bio-gas from cow dung which supplies homes with light and cooking fuel. The same cow dung is used to revitalise soil fertility. Replication and multiplication of such activities at each household level has capacity to gradually positively impact on climate change.

At an individual level, actions that can make a difference to climate change include:

--Changes in the way we produce and use energy as a starting point in trying to reduce emissions. Each individual needs to be frugal and thus deploy energy conservation measures such as use of energy-saving devices such as bulbs and renewable energy such as solar and bio-fuels.

--Promote purchase of energy-efficient appliances and construction of houses that allow maximum use of natural light and better insulation;

--Make it a goal to plant at least five trees near your homestead and two when one is cut. Plant trees specifically for fuel systematically in order to avert depletion of forests. Plant different crops taking into account the changing seasons;

--Promote soil conservation and environmental protection by farming methods such as terracing; growing of organic plants and use organic waste in order to maintain soil fertility;

--Reduce use of private cars in inner cities in order to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from cars. Activities which have multiple benefits such as walking and biking should be encouraged;

--Support industries that adopt mechanisms to mitigate carbon emissions such as planting of trees and proper waste management;

--Prepare for floods and landslides by, for example, setting up dikes or planning for retreat from areas prone to such occurrences;

--Adhere to environmental protection laws and support enforcement of such laws by reporting practices that destroy the environment;

--Support enactment of laws such as that on inheritance of land by women who are the majority of land users and therefore have a stake in its preservation and conservation.

--At every opportunity create awareness about environmental change and action that one can take to avert self-destruction;

We should realise that use fossil fuels such as petrol, paraffin and charcoal create vast quantities of carbon dioxide, which in turn cause global warming and will thus lead to self-destruction.

You and I have a legal and moral duty to act now in order to avert imminent disaster. Plant a tree today for starters.

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