The 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), is taking place in Glasgow, Scotland, from October 31 to November 12. 

Much of the focus will of course be on the contentious issue of global warming and the record highs recently seen in global surface temperature — from 2.0°C (3.6°F ) and above — as of September 2021.

A Changing Atmosphere

It’s hard to deny that the effects of climate change, which are primarily influenced by greenhouse gases and human-induced emissions, are increasingly being felt throughout the world.

In recent weeks, continents such as Europe, Asia and North America have been wallowing under excessive heatwaves, floods, hailstorms, earthquakes and mudslides which has seen property and life lost.

However, the effects of climate change are not limited to the northern parts of the Earth’s equator. Africa has been the worst-hit continent when it comes to the effects of climate change. This is, ironically, despite the fact that it produces the least amount of carbon emissions of any global region. Droughts and flooding are now the norm, leaving many African countries that depend on the weather for crop growing food insecure. Deserts, such as the Kalahari and Sahara, have been increasing in length to the effect that arid land has grown while much-needed pasture land has declined.

Last year, Victoria Falls, which is situated between Zimbabwe and Zambia, witnessed its lowest water levels due to the effects of climate change. And last month the city of Lagos, in Nigeria, was battling excessive rain that brought flooding and a cholera outbreak.

From swarms of locusts, floods, and excessive bouts of drought the effects of climate change are reverberating throughout the continent. Africa’s woes are only likely to get worse.

Hope for the Future

Despite the above calamities, Africa’s situation is not hopeless. To better understand how the continent can shield itself from looming natural disasters, I interviewed Dr Jackson Kinyanjui, an agro-climatologist from Kenya, and Mr Musa Tanko, convenor of ClimatEducate Project in Nigeria.

Dr Kinyanjui: ‘Climate change is not constrained to [one] country. As much as we are talking about the problems, the causes of climate change are usually regional but the effects are mostly global. Africa is set to experience the same problems that are being felt by other continents, such as North America, Europe and Asia. But the difference is that Africa is the least adapted and does not have enough resources to cushion itself from the effects of climate change. [Whereas] some of these continents actually have the capacity and technology to recover from such events, Africa lacks the adaptive capacity to recover from the effects of climate change’.

The report left me with a grim face. I wondered how there can be any hope for the continent if it lacked the capacity to adapt to the ravages of climate change? However, my frown quickly turned into a smile as Dr Kinyanjui explained the ways in which Africa has been trying to mitigate the harmful effects of climate change — despite being financially incapacitated.

Dr Kinyanjui: ‘African countries have done a lot in mitigating the effects of climate change; but as a continent, we are not ready for any natural disasters that might come our way, due to financial constraints. We are now using nature-based solutions, such as the planting of trees and cutting down on emissions. But if we had the financial means, we would use more drastic [measures] that would help in the mitigation of climate change.

‘Moreover, Africa has a population of more than 1.2 billion — this calls for urgent mitigation measures because [it is said that] the largest percentage of refugees from Africa and globally [result] from the effects of climate change. … Scientists have proved that greenhouse [gases] are the largest contributors of climate change. As long we cut down our greenhouse emissions in terms of methane and carbon emissions, then we are safe. [Therefore], we are calling for the use of electric vehicles, walkways, renewable energy [and the] planting of more trees, as they are known to be carbon sequesters and protect our land and water masses’.

Mr Tanko shared the same sentiments as Dr Kinyanjui, citing that the continent was now reeling from the effects of climate change. Nevertheless, he acknowledges the strides being taken by African states to combat the effects of climate change.

Tanko: ‘In 2019, we saw the devastating effects of Cyclone Idai in Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Most of the coastal cities will experience an alarming rise in sea level, thereby displacing many communities in the process whilst inland communities along the river banks will be flooded continuously, [with] drought and acute dryness persisting in the Sahel.

‘However, huge projects like the Great Green Wall will have a positive impact against desert encroachment in the Sahel. The Great Green Wall, which is an 8,000km forest cutting across Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Eriteria, Ethiopia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan and Chad, is a project which is intended to save [the land] against the encroachment of the Sahara Desert into most parts of the Sahel. [Therefore], the most important project for climate change mitigation in Africa should be channelled towards reforestation. More trees should be planted because that will go a long way in decreasing acute dryness.

‘As a continent, we are doing well to mitigate the ravaging effects of climate change. Countries like Nigeria, Egypt and South Africa are doing well in the issue of mitigation. I think the continent is doing something about the issue of climate change’.

Parting Words

In summing up, Dr Kinyanjui advises the continent to make use of renewable forms of energy — an avenue that is being adopted by most developed countries. In some parts of North America, Asia and Europe solar and wind energy have become the modus operandi for corporates, startups and households.

Dr Kinyanjui : ‘To limit the effects of climate change, Africa needs to embark on tree planting, cutting down on emissions and contribute to the Paris Agreement — where every country was supposed to add its voice to the nationally determined contributions. As long as each country does not go the way of using fossil fuels and embraces the use of green energy, there is a lot the continent can do. [We] can also embrace the use of nuclear energy and renewable energy such as solar, wind, water and geothermal as opposed to the use of fossil fuels. These are some of the few things Africa can do’.

One of the challenges that many people across Africa unabatedly face is being told to do something, or behave in a certain manner, without the given know-how. This makes it difficult for governments and Non-Profit Organizations (NPOs) to implement certain beneficial measures. Dr Kinyanjui ‘s parting words seem to have read my thoughts. He vehemently pleads with governments and stakeholders to embark on educating people about the issue of climate change.

Dr Kinyanjui: ‘There is an urgent need to educate and inform people about the issue of climate change. We can make use of social media platforms, door-to-door campaigns, and governments across the continent can make sure that climate change is part of the schools’ curriculum. [This way], students can learn about climate change from a tender age. That is why most African countries are now developing the Climate Change Learning strategy’.

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