More robust measures needed on climate change

It was former United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon who at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in 2015, said:

“Climate change has happened because of human behaviour, therefore it’s only natural it should be us, human beings, to address this issue. It may not be too late if we take decisive actions today.

“We are the first generation that can end poverty and the last generation that can take steps to avoid the worst impact of climate change. Future generations will judge us harshly if we fail to uphold our moral and historical responsibilities.”

Today Ban’s words seem to have fallen on deaf ears as the world continues to watch serious damage to the environment.  Global powers, the biggest culprit of which is the United States which has spurned the Paris Agreement to cut carbon emissions, continue to spew noxious gases into the atmosphere in the name of industrialisation.

Sadly, it is smaller nations, a majority of them in Africa, who are at the receiving end of these actions.  Africa is home to 14 percent of the world’s population, but it only emits 3 percent of global fossil fuel carbon and 5.3 percent of global greenhouse gases.

Yet when it comes to the economic costs of climate change, the continent suffers the most. For example, the El Nino-induced drought that hit the SADC region in 2015/2016 is understood to have affected 39 million people in the region.  This resulted in SADC governments and their partners forking out more than US$1 billion in humanitarian aid.   

It is against this background that we at The Southern Times last week saw it fit to convene the first ever Climate Change Forum in region so as to bring experts together to tackle this very important topic in our lives today.

We believe the issue of climate change can no longer be ignored as it affects every facet of life – from the rich to the poorest of the poor.  If there were any doubters, the recent hurricanes that devastated nations in the Caribbeans and almost flattened Dominica, Costa Rica and the United States south-east coast, are sure evidence of the deadly effects of climate change on our planet.

While we are glad that SADC leaders have begun to speak out on climate change as shown by their speeches at the United Nations General Assembly last month, we believe it is time for more action and serious mobilization of resources and more pro-active mitigatory measures.

The effect of climate change are there for everyone to see: the unpredictable changes in weather patterns which have resulted in either devastating droughts or floods in SADC will remain with us and are likely to increase unless strong mitigatory measures are taken.

Vast swathes of forests will continue to be destroyed as people, mostly the poor, continue to cut down trees, which are the natural carbon sinks, to use as firewood.  Huge tracts of land will continue to be degraded through practices such as illegal gold panning, unregulated mining activities, and unsustainable farming methods.

The continued use of non-renewable forms of energy such as coal and natural gasses also has a huge impact on the environment and the sooner African countries move over to renewable forms of energy such as hydropower, solar, wind, geothermal energy, and biomass the better for the continent and efforts to save the globe from global warming.

Yes, climate change mitigatory measures are costly, but we believe resources can be mobilised to save the globe that we all call home.   Global warming is real and the rise in sea temperatures is already taking place, threatening to wipe away humanity.

We urge policy makers in our region to move from rhetoric to action. As neuroscientist and author Abhijit Naskar said, we need to “take action to cool our planet or the planet will take action and cool our lives forever” if we do not act to save it.

October 2017
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