GLOBAL WARMING AND CLIMATE CHANGE – Much ado about Nothing??
A view from the Kenyan perspective
Kenyans, and especially our politicians, have heard about Global Warming and Climate Change, but the question still remains do they really understand the significance this phenomenon?
Global warming can be defined as the gradual increase of the temperature of the earth’s lower atmosphere as a result of the increase in greenhouse gases since the industrial revolution. Among factors that may be contributing to global warming are the burning of coal and petroleum products; deforestation, which increases the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere; methane gas released in animal waste; and increased cattle production, which contributes to deforestation, methane production, and use of fossil fuels. Signs of global warming were increasingly widespread globally with glaciers around the world melting, average sea levels rising, and average precipitation increasing, the 1990s registered as the hottest decade on record in the past thousand years.
Although Kenyans are quick to pride themselves with the likes of 2004 Nobel Peace Price Laureate Prof. Wangari Maathai, who is herself a high profile environmental activist and a politician, it saddens me that issues of environmental degradation have not received adequate attention in the Kenyan society. It saddens me even more that the recently launched ‘visions’ of ODM presidential candidates have hardly any national environmental strategies or awareness campaigns. At least, the good professor has been bold enough to launch, globally though UNEP, a one billion tree planting campaign. What has the government done or is planning to do? If our own Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (despite its importance), was until recently without a full time minister in charge of operations and is largely viewed by government and Wananchi as a lacklustre department of government.
To illustrate its importance, global warming and climate change are agendas that have been captured in G8 summits and they are an important issue that potential candidates have to address in current U.S. presidential campaigns. Climate change is increasingly becoming a challenging political problem with USA, China and India among countries that have not signed the Kyoto protocol aimed at reducing the green house effect. On the other hand, third world countries, especially those in Africa, are urged to reverse the trend through aggressive national afforestation campaigns as their contribution to this disaster through deforestation is significant.
In Kenya, effects of global warming and climate change are already impacting upon the country in many negative ways and sadly the population is largely ignorant of the causes of these problems. Kenyans fail to grasp the fact that a large part of our population that is poor will are already dying in their thousands and remain the first victims to be wiped from the face of earth – literally – by the effects of climate change!
For instance, in 2006, a charity organisation known as Christian Aid, commissioned livestock specialist Dr David Kimenye to examine how the nomadic herders are coping with the drought situation in Northern Kenya. He uncovered a disastrous story that was hardly reported in the regular press but received fair international coverage.
Over two months, Dr Kimenye talked to pastoralists in five areas across the Mandera district, home to 1.5 million people. The study discovered that:
- Incidence of drought has increased fourfold in the Mandera region in the past 25 years.
- One-third of herders living there – around half a million people – have already been forced to abandon their pastoral way of life because of adverse climatic conditions.
- During the last drought, so many cattle, camels and goats were lost that 60 per cent of the families who remain as herders need permanent outside assistance to recover. Their surviving herds are too small to support them.
- The same people pastoralists are 100% dependent on WFP food aid
If this study was to be expanded to cover the all the pastoralists communities of Kenya, one shudders to imagine what the findings will be and yet these challenges are what fellow citizens face every day. The long term effects of drought to education and public health are worse.
Global warming and climate change – much ado about nothing? Not at all! Think again, Kenyans.