Climate change is not a left-or-right issue any more than an earthquake is; it’s science-based reality affecting everyone in the world in varying degrees, the poorer and the richer. With an overload of 423 million information about climate change and other environmental issues available on the internet, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and confused, and then paralyzed into inaction. So here’s what you need to know, and what you can safely avoid or do about climate change to contribute to the global fight against climate change which is the number 13 of the sustainable development goals.
- In a world that’s 2°C warmer, we will experience dangerous climate change
- Climate change isn’t just a problem for future generations: it’s happening now
- It’s still possible to limit warming to 1.5°C
Climate change is real; the only significant scientific uncertainty is how fast it’s happening. And that uncertainty should be no excuse for inaction. Most climate change disaster is being caused by greenhouse gases from our emissions of fossil fuels, not sunspots, volcanoes or wobbles in Earth’s orbit, ozone, or water vapour. The consequences of climate change include heat waves, droughts, extreme storms, infrastructure damage, sea level rise, melting permafrost, invasive pests and more. Climate will affect everyone on earth. It’s a known fact. But how can we capture this in what is already happening around the world?
In 2017, the world witnessed an extraordinary trio of hurricanes that shredded Caribbean islands, deadly wildfires that razed thousands of hectares in Portugal, Spain and California, extreme monsoon rains that killed 2700 people in South Asia and a succession of heat waves across Europe. All these weather catastrophes are a “foretaste of things to come” in a warming climate.
In Africa, prolonged droughts have been felt across the continent. In the past years, some regions of Africa, like Kenya, Somalia and Tanzania, severe droughts significantly reduced local communities’ crop yields and livestock productivity increasing the problem of hunger and poverty which has been persistent in the continent. While some parts of the continent were experiencing prolonged drought, severe flooding was occurring in other regions. The flooding disrupt food and livestock production and destroyed many homes and villages across Africa. Many lives were also lost. As a result, international food aid was provisioned to some of the most badly hit countries.
Climate change has even led to increased conflict in some parts of Africa, like Nigeria where famers and herders are in constant deadly battle. Disputes are mainly over water resources, which are diminishing because of less rainfall. In places like northern Kenya, this has actually become a national security concern for the government, as pastoral communities engage in small arms proliferation to be able to guard water points.
According to United Nations Environment Program, by 2020, between 75 and 250 million people on the continent of Africa are projected to be exposed to increased water stress due to climate change. In the same year in some countries yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by up to 50 percent. Global warming of 2˚C would put over 50 percent of the continent’s population at risk of undernourishment. Projections estimate that climate change will lead to an equivalent of 2 percent to 4 percent annual loss in GDP in the region by 2040. Assuming international efforts keep global warming below 2°C the continent could face climate change adaptation costs of US$ 50 billion per year by 2050.
Continued emission of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system, increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems. Limiting climate change would require substantial and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, which, together with adaptation, can limit climate change risks.
No one is too poor, uncivilized or uneducated that he has nothing to contribute to the global climate action
When the Paris Climate Agreement was signed in April 2016, there was massive jubilation, not only because a global agreement had finally been reached but also because the level of ambition had increased, which was best described as a transition from the era of hope to implementation. Until then, the focus had been on limiting global warming to no more than 2°C, beyond which climate change would unleash intolerable instability. However, as scientists and researchers have shown, 2°C represents a threshold not between acceptable and dangerous, but between dangerous and extremely dangerous climate change, so 2°C is not the safety margin it is often understood to be. So the world’s leaders in Paris agreed and committed to “pursue efforts” to limit temperature increase to 1.5°C. This agreement ushered in a new era of aggressive climate action, which will witness expansive and fiercer measures and strategy to combat climate change globally.
The Paris Agreement is a tall dream. No one knew if this was achievable, given that the planet had already warmed by about 1°C. Some scientists criticized the world’s climate diplomats for giving us false hope by signing up to a goal they considered unrealistic. But as time progresses, recent research emerged and more evidence surfaced which concluded that the 1.5°C goal is not yet out of reach; it’s feasible and achievable, but extremely challenging.
Today, you are being called upon to do something to save the environment. I am confident we can achieve 1.5°C. I believe we can combat climate change. No one is too poor or uncivilized that he has nothing to contribute in the global climate action. Now, what can you do?
Chizurum Anabaraonye is a young change maker whose works and involvement in promoting human rights and sustainable development, and combating climate have been recognised globally. he is the founding executive director of the Integrated Student and Youth Initiative (ISYI)