CHUSHI CHIBESAKUNDA, Lusaka
A NUMBER of serious topics dominate our current global agenda, but many a scientific mind would argue that climate change is by far the most urgent. One study has projected the global average temperature to rise by 11 degrees Fahrenheit (roughly -11 degrees Celsius) and contextualises that figure with the fact that average temperatures during earth’s most recent Ice Age (a period in which the polar ice caps expanded exponentially with ice sheets and glaciers) were merely 4 degrees Fahrenheit lower than they are today (roughly -15 degrees Celsius). Africa is particularly vulnerable to climate change due to our continued reliance on agriculture and our comparatively underdeveloped infrastructure; seismic shifts in temperature would leave less affluent Africans at the mercy of weather conditions we are not accustomed to, inevitable causing deaths (on a scale we cannot even measure yet). In fact, Paul Polman, the current CEO of Unilever, has earmarked climate change as the “biggest risk to African growth” due to the unpredictable havoc it is already beginning to wreak on the continent. It is therefore imperative for Africans to teach one another about the phenomenon while striving, to the very best of our abilities, to limit the carbon footprints we leave on the planet.
The science behind climate change
The terms “climate change” and “global warming” are used interchangeably. This is because the “warming” of the planet is what causes the changes in its climates. At its core, climate change is caused by a surplus of “greenhouse gases”, particularly carbon dioxide. Greenhouse gases are gases that absorb and emit radiant energy (essentially heat) within the atmosphere. The sun is a constant source of heat via the ultra violet and infrared rays it projects on to the planet. Under normal atmospheric conditions, a certain portion of the sun’s heat is allowed to escape from earth, but the continued release of carbon dioxide and methane caused by human activities means that the atmosphere is retaining a bigger portion of the sun’s heat and thus the global temperature is rising. Carbon dioxide is the chemical product of burning carbon-based substances such as wood, coal which is a product of wood, diesel, propane and other such substances. Methane is produced biologically, and over-rearing of farm animals is growing concern of climate change activists with regard to its production. Human beings are said to have increased the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by over 40 percent, and the effects on our planet are clear.
Effects of climate change so far
Numerous animal species are closer to extinction because of climate change. The shrinking polar ice caps (specifically the Arctic) translate into the literal wiping out of environments for polar bears (who’s conservation status is “vulnerable”), seals and others. The African elephant, also “vulnerable”, suffers a similar ailment due to continued deforestation for the sake of carbon dioxide producing activities and marine turtle populations are suffering reductions due to the changes in the temperature of the sand in which they lay their eggs. Rising sea temperatures is decimating coral reefs across the globe, leaving devastation that requires centuries to rectify.
Studies predict that the Dead Sea may be dry by 2050 as it is shrinking by 4 feet (about a metre) each year and the Amazon rainforests’ dry season is elongating. Scientists are highly concerned for the Amazon, since elongated dry seasons combined with deforestation threatens to wipe out a great many of its unique species; the dry season need only get a couple weeks longer to cause the damage predicted. East Africa is experiencing severe periodic droughts, breeding widespread famine. And a 2015 study conducted by Nature Climate Change predicts temperatures in the Middle East and Southwest Asia to rise beyond the maximum possible for human habitation. The reduction in habitats for wild animals is prophetic of the fate we ourselves will suffer if drastic change is not implemented. The clear change in Zambia’s seasons is only the beginning.
Africa and climate change
The aforementioned droughts in East Africa are not being well managed by the governments there. This is not necessarily the fault of said governments (though some culpability must be imposed), climate change presents a problem to mankind unlike ever before. Across the globe governments are struggling to manage it, with the coming floods in Bangladesh demonstrating how difficult the problems posed can be.
From last year through to early 2018, the El Nino meteorological event caused droughts in southern Africa. Though El Nino itself is not caused by climate change and there is scientific discussion as to weather or not the current state of global warming is what elongated it, the crises caused by the drought are illustrated of how unprepared the continent is for the changes global warming could bring. In Zambia El Nino destroyed crops, caused food shortages and made many Zambians uncomfortably hot in general. It was a similar state of affairs in neighbouring nations such as Zimbabwe and Malawi, many governments were forced to redirect funds in an effort to address the threat of famine. However, the most poignant example of El Nino’s effects were felt in Cape Town, where the South African 0212621283government threatened to cut off its populations’ water supply completely. It was only after every day citizens took action to supply the city with water that the crisis subsided to some degree at least. However, Cape Town was just one city, climate change is not limited to one city, nation or continent, it will cause a great many crises in a great many locations simultaneously when it truly begins to make its mark. By then it will be too late to prevent it.
Your carbon footprint
It is imperative that we as citizens take responsibility and produce as little carbon dioxide emissions as possible. Many believe that there is still time to avoid the fate that lays before us but we must be proactive. It is important to plant trees, avoid littering, clean up in general and use environmentally friendly energy sources and products. If enough people become conscious of their effects, the planet may not punish us for past mistakes.
Zambia – Plant A Million
The Plant – A – Million Initiative is a tree planting movement with the expanse and ambition to become Africa’s premier example of a ‘tree-based economy’. The vision of the initiative is to create a ‘tree-based economy’ which will enable us to mitigate climate change with economic benefits for Zambia. Growing your money from trees!
Stop Talking. Start Acting!
For information contact Emanuel Chibesakunda at info@PlantAMillion.co.zm:
Climate change: Why earth is running on fumes
CHUSHI CHIBESAKUNDA, Lusaka