Climatic change is real, what's next?

Geothermal wells at Ol karia. Will renewables reduce the global warming? [Xn Iraki, Standard]

Nairobi got lots of global attention and limelight by hosting a meeting to address climatic change, the hottest topic across the globe.

If you look at the temperature rises and carbon emissions, they have been rising since the Industrial Revolution when man learnt that machines could be enslaved.

Does it surprise you that the Industrial Revolution followed the end of the slave trade?

Man has over the years invested more time and money in machines, to do more and more for him.

We are on the verge of having machines think for us after doing everything else. Is that not what artificial intelligence (AI) is all about?

The Western world demonstrates the extent of technology use. From the rising of the sun to its setting, technology is never far.

Even in sleep, technology is not far, from the electric blanket to alarms, air conditioning and more.

The only paradox is that, as we adopt more technology to our lives, we get less time and are less happy.

Visitors from the developed world to the developing world are often surprised by how happy citizens are. Visiting the countryside yields the same, men and women at peace with themselves and nature.

Technology is driven by energy, from the cars that we drive to the chips in our computers. That energy is behind the global warming and climatic change. But the real culprit and few want to say it loudly is population growth. Climatic change is a result of our decisions, more so as individuals.

Making children is one of the easiest things! But the demands of the children go up as they grow up. Do we factor that as they are "made?" 

In addressing the climatic changes, we blame the wrong thing - fossil fuels. Left by themselves, they will never burn! We need someone to mine oil, coal or gas.

Someone must cut trees to get firewood and charcoal. That is why behavioural change is the golden route to mitigating climatic change. Who should change their behaviour? 

As we grow more affluent, we use more technology and produce more waste. I don’t recall us owning a dustbin when I was growing up in the countryside. There was very little waste.

We had no packaging to throw away, any excess food was eaten by the chicken, the dog (most were named Simba, even if cowardly), cattle or birds. Any packaging was turned into toys. Old oil containers became sugar or tea dishes. We use more energy too as we grow rich. Think of the number of machines that use energy in your house, including electric toothbrushes. 


Will the affluent change their lifestyle to stop climatic change? Remember, even if climatic change takes place, they have the money to "sponsor" their lifestyle.

They can air condition the houses or the car. They have fridges, they can buy water if in shortage. And they are likely to be policymakers or your reps.

It’s the poor who bear the brunt of climatic change. That is too evident to ignore. They are closer to nature. When rivers dry up and rains fail, they go hungry and travel long distances searching for water or pasture.

The effluent can get piped water from far away or underground. Noted adverts that tout residences as having boreholes? Why can’t we get piped water from the Nairobi River?

It’s a river! Will developed countries sacrifice their lifestyle for climatic change? These questions make climatic change mitigation an emotional, economic and political issue.

We get status and recognition from our lifestyles, where we live, the food we eat, the car we drive, and even what we wear.

It has been drummed up all our lives; it is the lifestyle to aspire for.

How can we change once we have "made it?" Add the thinking that climatic change is someone else’s problem. Would you leave your car at home when you can afford petrol for the sake of the planet? 

Would you take a cold shower in July for the planet? Would the poor stop aspiring to be rich for the sake of the planet? It’s economic because our leaders want more production, and more jobs and that hopefully translates into votes.

That is why nations are negotiating emission cuts and setting different deadlines; they know the possible political backlash if they cut emissions too fast. Where do we go from here?  What next after the Nairobi meeting when all guests are home? One of the time-honoured ways to force change is through incentives, not force. 

What do we give individuals to change their lifestyles? Carbon credits are one option. A vibrant trade-in would make many earthlings think of climatic change. The language of money is understood by all.

Noted people who have never been to school easily count money?

What would we give the poor to stop using firewood or charcoal? What of the affluent using less power at home, on the road and in the workplace? Subsidies for electric cars?  

What would nations get if they gave up using fossil fuels and all the jobs tied to them for cheaper power from renewables?

The climatic change war will be won in our minds. It will take time and political will. For now, the voters do not seem angry enough to demand changes that would save the planet. That is why political leadership matters.

Will the private sector lead? Think of electric cars, recycling and “greenhouses.”  The private sector leads with innovations, especially if they see money. Their efforts must be supplemented by government policies that favour renewables and recycling. And should we add, in whispers, smaller families?

When the Nairobi meeting disperses, each of us will be left to face the ravages of climatic change.

Hopefully, the decisions and declarations made in Nairobi will cascade to the grassroots, and every individual and institution will take some steps, no matter how small to make this planet better. 

Some suggest boldly that we could one day escape to the moon’s South Pole, which has water or to some exoplanets. But for now, Earth remains our only home. Let’s take care of it.