30 March 2009
THE threat posed by climate change is growing by the day. It is made even worse by the global economic recession. However, the developing world is likely to bear the brunt of the problems.
At the beginning of 2008, the Intergovernmental Panel on climate Change published a report warning of rising sea levels, expanding deserts, more intense storms and the extinction of about 30 percent of animal and plant species.
According to research, the recurrent and often debilitating droughts, floods and hurricanes being experienced today can be traced to global warming. So serious is the threat that interventions have to be found as a matter of urgency.
Because of climate change and the resultant global warming, the achievement of the majority if not all MDGs may remain a mirage. In a way, it becomes imperative to take climate change and global warming issues seriously.
Adaptation through a wide range of scientific, regulatory and behavioural changes is needed to mitigate the effects of climate change, which has increasingly become a threat to biodiversity. These mitigation efforts must necessarily involve all stakeholders if they have to make an impact.
Wikipedia defines climate change as any "long-term significant change in the expected patterns of average weather of a specific region (or more relevantly to contemporary socio-political concerns, of the Earth as a whole) over an appropriately significant period of time".
It reflects the abnormal variations to the expected climate within the Earth's atmosphere and subsequent effects on other parts of the Earth. However, the term 'climate change' has, in recent times, been associated to changes in modern climate, especially in the context of environmental policy.
On the other hand, Millenium Development Goals are the eight international goals that 192 UN member states and 23 international organisations agreed to have reached by 2015. Funded by the G-8, World Bank, IMF and African Development Bank, these MDGs were aimed at spurring development by improving social and economic conditions, especially of the world's poorest countries.
In its 2007 report, the United Nations Development Programme notes that there has been a marked increase in mosquito populations. Malaria carrying mosquitoes are moving into areas that they did not live in. This has led to the increased incidence of malaria in hitherto non-malaria areas.
In this regard, climate change is seen impacting negatively on the ability of the world to meet its target in as far as Millenium Development Goal No.6 is concerned: to combat HIV/Aids, malaria and other diseases.
According to Dr Amos Makarau, director of the Metereological Department, daily minimum temperatures in Zimbabwe have risen by up to 3 degrees Celsius in the last 100 years with the greatest leap-taking place in the 1970s.
The worst case temperature projection is 6 degrees Celsius. Global research estimates that world greenhouse gas emissions have risen by 3,3 percent per annum between 2000 and 2007. Therefore, these changes are bound to impact negatively on the socio-economic lives of the people.
Zimbabwe has witnessed discernible shifts in agro-ecological regions. With higher temperatures projected to shorten the growing season of crops by two to thirty-five days, one of the obvious consequences is reduced yields as well as decreased livestock. This will impact negatively on the socio-economic lives of the people in general and food security in particular.
MDG number 1, which happens to be central and related to all the others, spells out the need to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger.
There are a number of countries in the developing world that have been subjected to successive drought years as a result of climate change. Zimbabwe is not an exception and the country has witnessed years of drought notably 1982, 1992-3, 2002-3 and 2007-8.
A fellow southern African country, Mozambique, has recorded a number of environmental refugees in recent years. These people have been fleeing the incessant floods that have continued to hit low-lying areas of the southern African country.
The Doha (Qatar) Conference that was held between November 29 and December 2, 2008 also had time to deliberate on climate change thereby underlining the seriousness, which must be attached to tackling the problem.
Japan's space agency launched Gosat (Global Greenhouse Observation by Satellite), a 2-tonne Earth orbiting satellite meant to map the abundance of greenhouse gases by taking measurements of CO2 and methane in the atmosphere. The spacecraft is meant to help scientists understand and monitor how the Earth's climate is changing.
The Japanese space agency hopes Gosat will "contribute to the international effort towards prevention of (global) warming". This represents a significant step in the right direction in the sphere of scientific interventions. Jaxa claim that monitoring the greenhouse gases is vital to promote and support measures designed to mitigate climate change.
The Japanese effort is in line with the prescriptions of the Kyoto Protocol, which came into effect in February 2005 setting out the rules for the reduction and restriction of greenhouse gas emissions. Gosat aims at identifying and monitoring of carbon sources with the view to supporting compliance with international treaties and agreements.
It is known that about 50 percent of the CO2 emitted into the atmosphere, notably from fossil fuel combustion and land use, stays there with the remainder being mopped up by forests and oceans which act as carbon "sinks".
It is known that some of the biggest polluters are the fast developing economies of India and China as
they have large energy requirements for their industries. There has to be a mechanism to monitor their operations and make them liable for the pollution they cause, while at the same time they should invest in alternative energy sources other than thermal power and fossil fuels. South Africa has mooted the idea of slapping a possible carbon tax on carbon spewing industries.
While the option of carbon trading where countries, especially in the developed world, sell their carbon emissions to developing countries can benefit the latter economically, it remains of paramount importance for the world to ultimately meet their carbon emission targets as espoused in the Kyoto Protocol. This way the world will be tackling the global warming problem head-on.
In order to achieve a marked reduction in the effects of climate change, behavioural interventions should take centre stage because most of the causes of this phenomenon seem to lie in human activity. Coupled with the loss of tropical forests to wild fires and other causes, deforestation is a perpetrator of climate change.
Forests are a biological climate regulator, therefore deforestation remains a major perpetrator of climate variation. The continued uncontrolled exploitation of forest resources means a reduction of the said carbon "sinks".
The economic problems that Zimbabwe has been going through have compromised the biophysical aspect of the environment. With the obtaining energy crisis in Zimbabwe and the region, urban dwellers, have been forced to look elsewhere for their energy needs since there is insufficient electricity. The most obvious source of energy has been firewood taken from trees.
While people cut down trees for genuine firewood demand, there is a growing trend where people cut down trees in order to sell. Such behaviour should change. If there is difficulty in achieving that then regulatory strategies have to be adopted. Governments would have no choice but to institute laws and regulations against the wanton cutting down of trees.
The impacts of climate change are not only confined to health, but also extend to biodiversity. Those natural control methods where creatures would control each other's population falls off because certain species become extinct.
The same UNDP report (2007) goes on to say that there are frog species that are dying as a result of climate change. Harare and Nairobi are cited in the report.
If climate change is not taken seriously there is a risk that most, if not all, the Millenium Development Goals risk not being met by the 2015 deadline.
Climate change impacts negatively on rainfall patterns and therefore on productivity.
This in turn suggests that the ability of communities to be self-sustaining in terms of food is equally compromised.
Since the socio-economic lives of the people would have been dented, then their health will also suffer. In a way, mitigation efforts for climate change require the input of all stakeholders for them to produce positive results.
Return to the list <<<<<