“If you destroy the forest then the river will stop flowing, the rains will become irregular, the crops will fail and you will die of hunger and starvation.”
Professor Wangari Maathai
If the recent extreme weather reports is anything to go by, then the effects of climate change is exacerbating and therefore calls for fast, effective and sustainable remedies.
From snowstorms in regions of the US to the ‘beast from the east’ in Europe to high temperatures in Africa (all just during the early weeks of the year), the world has a pressing problem at hand.
The time for enacting and enforcing climate laws is now, especially in third world countries which are most affected by the adverse effects of climate change and where there are little or no impressive attempts at addressing the looming crisis.
Other vulnerable parts of the world such as Columbia- with a significant coastal area that has suffered from landslides and flooding- are taking impactful and commendable steps in addressing and adapting to climate change.
Even countries like The Philippines whose greenhouse gas emissions are relatively small (about 1%) are unfortunately amongst the most vulnerable.
There seems to be an undeniable gap between most parts of Africa and the rest of the world when it comes to adaptability to climate change.
However, we must make immediate and measurable progress at keeping the temperature below 1.5 for a number of reasons.
For Food security
Forecasts of floods, landslides and erosions in different parts of the world pose significant threat to optimum agricultural yields at present temperatures.
According to the Asian Development Bank, there could be as much as 50% decrease in rice yields from Thailand, Vietnam, The Philippines and Indonesia if the status quo was to be maintained.
Farming activities and the use of artificial fertilizers is largely unregulated in many parts of Africa, producing nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas, at an alarming rate.
What’s more, when governments prove sluggish in delivering on promises for regulated and approved fertilizers for farmers, counterfeit fertilizers flood the markets and are not realized until when harvest time comes and the yield is scanty, substandard and the soil quality, degraded.
The unpredictability of the weather- shorter growing seasons, early rains, and late rains- is also significantly affecting economies.
If African governments can deliver on their promises of subsidized and standardized fertilizers and put stiff penalties in place, the emission of excess nitrous oxide from fake fertilizers will be contained.
Intervention on an international level is also needed to address climate change in Africa. For instance, Nigeria alone is estimated to need about $142 billion dollars to meet her NDC (Nationally Determined Contributions, the individual efforts by countries to meet their climate change goals) target by 2030.
The varying patterns of the weather is linked to public health.
Unfortunately, children are the most vulnerable- reduced agricultural yields deny them of key nutrition in their diets, the direct inhalation of greenhouse gases and other poisonous gases such as carbon monoxide which are injected into the atmosphere when fossil is burned as fuel pose a public health threat.
Also, due to the intermittency of rains, water borne diseases are expected to be fairly regular all year round, particularly in rural areas.
Regulating bodies need to do more to curb perpetual emission of greenhouse and poisonous gases through burning of kerosene, wood and charcoal.
The emphasis of safe and clean cooking methods and the empowerment of rural women should be a priority in the greening of the economies, particularly African economies who heavily rely on fossil for fuel.
China’s impressive 54% drop in air pollution in the last quarter of 2017 (according to Greenpeace), mostly by replacing coal with gas is a success strategy that other governments can adopt.
For the Environment
The implication of climate change on the environment is telling now more than ever before; tropical regions are getting even hotter, the scarcity of water cuts across many regions- from Mexico to Cape Town- as is also draught.
In a desperate bid towards urbanization, many African countries are clearing forests at an alarming rate and are populating the atmosphere with methane and CFCs from refrigeration systems, air conditioners and other coolants.
Pictures 1 and 2: About 24 Kilometres of trees, shrubs and grass is being cleared for a median bus rapid transport lane in Lagos with no replacement plans for cleared greenery
Photo source: Oyinkansade Fabikun
Whilst urbanization is key to developing economies, many of these plans leave out any form of greenery.
In Nigeria alone, it is estimated that 400,000 hectares of forest is cleared every year. With a population of over 180 million, Nigeria’s forest cover is less than 7% compared to 40% at Independence in 1960, according to the Board of Trustees, Nigeria Conservation Foundation.
Lagos, a 1,171km2 commercial state and Africa’s most populous city for example, has a population of about 21 million with a disappointing forest cover of about 0.2%.
Cattle rearing, a common practice in Africa, is another key source of land and water degradation according to a UN report and what’s worse, methane emission from cattle are reported by The IPCC to be 11% higher than previously estimated.
Impressively, some African state governments regularly distribute free tree seedlings to residents to encourage the planting of trees and some authorities have even advised for the planting of five trees for every one fell even though these laws are still not enforced with the immediacy that it requires.
Also, cattle ranching and has been proposed as a means to contain the effects of cattle rearing on land and water.
Fulani herdsman watering his cattle
Photo source: Emmanuel Arewa/ AFP/ Getty Images. Malkohi, Nigeria. May 7, 2015
For Biodiversity & Tourism
According to a report by The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), we can expect between 25- 40% mammal species in Sub-Saharan Africa to become endangered in the next few decades if temperatures are not contained and in another 60 years, arid and semi-arid lands are predicted to increase by almost 10%.
Climate change has caused the mass migration of sea animals from hot regions that are steadily heating up to cooler regions.
Drought and high temperatures in Kenya partly account for steady loss of biodiversity.
The exotic sea turtles of the Cape Verde are also at risk; hotter sea sands may result in the exponential production of female breeds to the extinction of the males according to a report on Nature Climate Change.
The beautiful white lemuroid ringtail possums of Australia are another delicate species; most of them were lost after a heat wave in 2005. They cannot survive in temperatures higher than 30 degree Celsius for more than a few hours but Australia is getting hotter, with the Australian Climate Council declaring 2017 its warmest winter on record.
Fortunately, Australia has demonstrated serious efforts at curbing greenhouse gas emissions with climate laws and the adoption of the Paris Agreement.
Kenya, through its Greenbelt movement, has successfully planted a record 51 million trees since the inception of the movement in 1977, making it an exemplary climate change leader on the African continent.
Besides, in apparent keeping with the Paris agreement, Kenya considers gender sensitivity in adaptation goals- many of the trees are planted by women who constitute about half of the population and therefore make the tree planting exercise very effective.
The other 32 African Countries that have so far ratified the Paris Agreement can take a cue from Kenya.
Effective solutions to climate change requires global participation and an ideal unifying platform is found in the Paris Agreement; the quicker countries adopt, ratify and prioritize it, the quicker we can achieve a below 1.5 degree temperature.