On Climate Change and Africa :: 2008.02.21 09:22

New Song/ Million Ways/ Say It's Possible- Terra Naomi

One of my daily routines is to check the weather. I press F12 every morning (I love my Mac! /ㅁ/ hehehe), and this simple touch basically decides what I'm gunna wear that day. (how simple, right? haha, but, I must admit..I get fooled by meteorologist 40% of the time..)

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i love my widgets! >_<


Anyway, this morning, I added Dar es Salaam to my column of weather forecasts, and I was just so awed at the temperature differences- then for like 10 minutes I was checking out all the temperatures around the world.. (felt like i was back in grad school sitting in  a 지구과학 class lol) anyways, I came across an article yesterday about Lake Tanganyika and i had this sudden urge to write about climate change...

Climate change. These two words have been widely used (written, spoken, thought of, etc etc)- it has become a household name for some, while it still is (added with all the talk about carbon trading, CDM, Annex A&B, IPCC etc) an insignificant "intellectual jargon" for some.

Unless you really think about its causes and effects, climate change is vulnerable to indifference. Because it's mentioned so often everywhere, even if you don't really know what it's about, you feel like you know them already- so there is less motivation for you to find out more. Or you don't take it seriously cuz you can't really feel the weather getting warmer. (It's still cold and windy in London, and I heard Seoul is way beyond London weather...)

But we all should teach ourselves more about it, because average global temperature in 2100 could be between 1.4 and 5.8 degrees higher than they were in 1990. Yeah, okay, we'll all be dead by 2100 anyway, and 5.8 degrees higher temperature doesn't sound too bad- it'll make our cold freezing winters a bit more bearable, wouldn't it? But this increase does a lot more than warm the planet. It affects the water cycle, rainfaills will become less predictable, sea levels will rise, sea temperature will also get higher....which all contribute to more storms, floods, droughts and other natural disasters. If you are hyper weather-sensitive (like I am), shouldn't you be alarmed?


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Source: UNEP (2005) Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. Cartography by Philippe Rekacewicz UNEP/GRID - Arendal and Millennium Ecosystem Assessment www.millenniumassessment.org


So how much does climate change matter for development?

The first thing that we need to realize is that people in the poorest countries rely heavily on environmental resources for their livelihoods. Taking Africa for example, desertification in the Sahel is shrinking the amount of arable land. Rain shortage and higher temperatures in Sub-Saharan Africa will shorten the growing season, leading to lower crop yields and less pasture for livestocks.


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Source: Vital Climate Graphics, Africa 2002, UNEP/GRID Arendal. Cartography by UNEP/GRID-Arendal, Norway http://www.grida.no/climate.vitalafrica



What's more, climate change could lead to detereoration of public health. Disease prevalence rate will increase as temperature rises, and longer rainy seasons will increase communicative illnesses like malaria (it's already happening in Rwanda and Tanzania). More floods in places with low levels of sanitation will increase water-borne diseaes such as cholera and diarrhoea. This is only a few facts I know of now, but I fear that the actual consequences will be more abysmal.

It is said that climate change poses the most serious long term threat to development and the MDGs. If you think about it for a moment, it's a really sad and unfair situation. Advanced countries today literally developped by polluting, and still they contribute the lion's share of the global carbon emission. So whilst they are committing the crime, they are at the same time asking the developing countries to adapt to the widespread injustice, or to turn a blind eye to the ill will. (The BRICs should watch out as well, because it's predicted that by 2025 developing countries will overtake the energy emissions of developed countries)


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Source: World Resources Institute Climate Analysis Indicators Tool Version 3.0 (2006) www.cait.wri.org


It's really important that everyone (from developing and developed countries) knows how climate change might affect poverty and economic growth. Not only its costs, but also how to reduce risks. Technology transfer is extremely important, and there needs to be more frank and earnest dialogue on the international level.