'World hurtling towards climate disaster because of rich nations'

A woman carrying jerricans in search of water at Naudo water pan in Silale, Tiaty, Baringo County on March 17, 2022. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard]

September has traditionally never been a cold month, yet the days the sun has shone its rays this month can be counted by the fingers.

“The weather is so confusing now,” says Stephen Mulinge, a 70-year-old businessman and farmer from Muvuti, Machakos County.

Mulinge said that in the past, forefathers could accurately predict rainfall by observing the budding of the trees, and the direction of the wind.

However, Mulinge says that but so far, the methods no longer hold.

“In Ukambani, we’ve always had two planting seasons, in February and September. In the last two years, we’ve laboured in vain, preparing the land, planting only for the crops to die midway, for lack of sufficient rain,” says Mulinge.

“It’s hard to predict the rains nowadays. When it rains, it’s too much and short-lived, and when the sun shines, it goes on for such a long time, withering the crops. Our people are starving after the four failed harvest in the last two years."

Not surprisingly, a report released by the United in Science on Tuesday last week warned that governments and businesses failing to incorporate climate change recommendations fast enough could soon lead the world into uncharted territories of destruction.

The report reveals that greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise to record highs, and are now above pre-pandemic levels after a temporary dip due to lockdowns.

The report pointed out that weather is getting increasingly extreme and that the world’s chances of preventing the worst ravages of climate breakdown are reducing drastically.

Uncharted territory 

Despite relentless calls in recent years, businesses and governments still lag behind, effecting change slowly than the earth can heal itself, the report said.

The consequences are already apparent in increasingly extreme weather around the world. 

Through the failure to ease up on greenhouse gas emissions and take the actions needed to ward off catastrophe, the report warned that the world is at the brink of provoking “tipping points” in the climate system that will pose rapid and in some cases irreversible changes.

“The drought and near-famine conditions ravaging Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia, the shifts of weather patterns in Kenya all reflect increasingly prevalent extremes of weather,” said John Kioli, a Member of the National Climate Change Council of Kenya.

“Recent flooding in Pakistan which the country's Climate Minister said left a third of the country submerged, and excesses of 40°C heat waves in the UK are examples of extreme weather that is wreaking havoc on the globe,” said Kioli.

António Guterres, the UN secretary general said there’s nothing natural about the new scale of these disasters.

“They are the price of humanity’s fossil fuel addiction. This year’s United in Science report shows climate impacts heading into uncharted territory of destruction,” he said.

During the UN Cop26 Climate Summit in Glasgow in November, governments consented to focus on maintaining temperatures within the 1.5°C limit, but their pledges and actions to reduce emissions fell short of what was recommended, the report revealed.

After the summit, the invasion of Ukraine and resultant spike in fuel prices have pushed some governments such as India and the US to recede to the use of fossil fuels, which are key contributors to the climate disaster. 

In response, Guterres warned that each year nations double down on fossil fuel addiction, the symptoms get rapidly worse.

He condemned rich countries that had pledged assistance to developing nations but failed to deliver. “It’s a shame that developed nations have failed to take adaptation seriously, and played down their commitments to help the developing world,” he said.

According to agreements by participating nations during the UN Cop26, rich countries are supposed to provide approximately Sh4.8 trillion (40 billion dollars) a year to help developing countries adapt, increasing that to 36 trillion (300 billion dollars) each year by 2030.

Terrifying picture

Tasneem Essop, the executive director of the Climate Action Network, said nations ought to prepare for Cop27 with action plans that reflected the urgency of the crisis. 

She said that the terrifying picture presented by the United in Science report is already a reality for millions of people grappling with recurring climate disasters. 

“The science is clear, but the addiction to fossil fuels by rich countries and greedy corporations is causing huge damages and losses for communities who’ve done the least to trigger the current climate crisis,” she said

Adding that the Cop27 conference in Egypt in November this year must agree to provide new funding to those already experiencing the climate effects, specifically in the global south, to help them rebuild their lives.

The United in Science report was coordinated by the World Meteorological Organisation, and involved the UN Environment Programme, the World Climate Research Programme, the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, the Global Carbon Project and the Urban Climate Change Research Network.

More research from Oxford University said adapting the global economy to a low-carbon footing would save the world over 12trillion dollars by 2050, compared with the current unsustainable fossil fuel use.

The research said that the prices of green technology have gone down, so businesses that move rapidly to renewable power and other forms of clean energy would benefit in the long term.