Since 1902

How we are killing ourselves slowly

Livelihoods across Africa are gradually being threatened by changing climatic conditions. The Global Risks 2017 report, released at the World Economic Forum, says there may be little water and food in Africa by 2060 if the effects of climate change are not checked and reversed.

The report indicates that climate change is likely to cause extreme temperatures and increase aridity, choking the rain-fed agricultural systems on which the livelihoods of a large portion of the African population depend. Another report, Future Climate of Africa: Helping Decision Makers Make Sense of Climate Information indicates that Africa is expected to get warmer in the next five to 40 years. The average annual temperature is likely to increase to 2.4 degree Celsius by 2065. The report further shows that dry spells may increase. This could have some serious implications on water supply, agriculture and the energy policy and development in the region.

In Kenya, we have already experienced the effect of climatic change. The recent long drought has had a devastating impact on agriculture and other sectors of the economy. As the effect of climate change rages on, our actions on the environment are to blame. Today, water catchment areas and forests are being wiped clean by illegal loggers. That aside, we continue to pollute water bodies and the air we breathe while dumping e-waste in whatever place that befits us.

Concerted efforts

The improper disposal of e-waste has forced National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) to draft a policy on e-waste regulation and management. The policy provides guidelines for transportation, recycling, re-use, outlining stiff penalty on offenders.

Experts say the world will need to reduce emissions by 50 percent to 70 percent by 2050 and eliminate them altogether by 2100 to keep global warming to within 2 degrees Celsius and limit the risk of dangerous climate change.

For that reason, corporates, who largely source materials from the environment, have thrown their weight behind conservation programs to save the environment. A case in point is KTDA that has planted over 500, 000 trees in water catchment areas, besides planting over six million cyclic trees for its wood fuel project. Likewise, State owned Nyayo Tea Zones Development Corporation has established about 5,235 hectares of forest cover in form of assorted tree species. The tea zones have acted as 'live' fences against human intrusion into the Aberdare and Mau forests, greatly reducing illegal logging and encroachment. Safaricom Foundation, KENGEN, Unilever, Finlays, Timber Manufacturers Association and many more have taken steps towards conserving the environment.

However, as Kenya and some of the African countries strive to combat the effects of climate change, nations like China, the United States, India and some European countries are busy damaging the environment. The report identifies these giant nations as comprising more than half of global emissions, with US being the world's second-largest emitter of carbon, after China.

Despite being the second world largest emitter of carbon, President Donald Trump has withdrawn the US from the Paris climate accord, further frustrating the climate change efforts. Trump claims that the Paris agreement sabotages the U.S economy, costs jobs, weakens American sovereignty and puts US at a vulnerable. This decision could deal a big blow to international efforts to tackle dangers posed by global warming.

Lately, some of the polluting western countries have skip-hopped to Africa and beguiled leaders with a concept called 'carbon credit' whose aim is to shock-absorb the excess carbon emitted by their countries. This carbon thing, with its associated 'hand-outs', is a blindfold gimmick to fool African countries in the conservation business; but African states must not allow the west to marionette them but should seek genuine compensation for the effects of the menace.

Increasingly, legal action is being taken against polluting states in an attempt to coerce action on environmental issues. The UK, for example, is being sued for failing to deal with a 'national air pollution crisis' and it has also been threatened with legal action in case it fails to reduce its greenhouse emissions. Netherlands has been ordered by a court to cut its emissions and Norway is being sued over Arctic drilling plans. Whether or not the US wants to reconsider her position on the Paris accord, international organisations of good will must ratchet up their action in order to limit warming. They must enforce strict penalties on nations that damage the environment particularly the US and China.

Locally, government agencies, organizations and citizens must take charge by effectively implementing and observing policies on environmental conservation. Only that way can we be able to support livelihoods and ward off the effects of climate change. Otherwise, we will not only continue to hurt economies and hundreds of thousands of people in Africa and the rest of the world, but also affect future generations.

Mr Bosire is an adviser in communications and public relations