By Dauglas Mwanga:
Climate change is perhaps the most considerable environment challenge of our time. It poses a great challenge to sustainable progress globally. It affects eco systems, water resources, food, health, coastal zones, industrial activities and human growth.
Addressing these effects provides opportunities for innovation and business. If we are to cut down the many impacts of climate change variability, the necessary mitigation, adaptation and coping up strategies must be implemented.
Kenya needs about US $500 million per year to address current and future climate change effects by 2015. It is predicted this figure will rise to US $1-2 billion per year by 2030. Unless effective mitigation and adaptation systems are immediately instituted, the combined effects of climate change impacts will hinder realization of targeted goals in Vision 2030.
While the National Climate Change Response Strategy (NCCRS) was finalized in 2010, there is need to go further and formulate a national policy on climate change and enact a climate change law.
Threat of climate change in Kenya
Kenya is already feeling the effects Climate change. The widespread poverty, recurrent droughts, floods, inequitable land distribution, overdependence on rain-fed agriculture, and few coping mechanisms all combine to increase people’s vulnerability to climate change. For instance, disadvantaged people have little security against intense climatic actions. They have few resource reserves, poor housing and depend on natural resources for their living.
Floods and droughts have caused damage to property and loss of life, reduced business opportunities and increased the cost of transacting business as recently witnessed in most parts of the country. Acording to Eriksen etal 2008, IPCC 2007a, Climate change and variability are considered to be major threats to sustainable progress. The areas likely to feel the greatest impacts comprise the economy, water, ecosystems, food security, coastal zones, health and the distribution of populations and settlements. Africa is considered vulnerable to climate change- effects largely due to lack of financial, institutional and technological capacity.
Global Climate Change
There is increasing agreement that the world has to put more measures to fight with increasingly severer climatic events due to mounting scientific substantiation. Manifestations of climate change are rising average temperatures. The last three decades temperatures have recorded warmer, increasing sea levels by an average of 1.8 mm/year between 1961 and 1993. Climate change and variability has also led to regular hurricanes, erratic rainfall, flooding, protracted droughts and destruction of coastal areas. Species’ vanishing, reduction in ecosystems diversity and negative impacts on human health.
Future IPCC projection circumstances indicate a probable range of global warming of between 0.3°C for a situation of regular levels of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 6.4°C for the highest case emissions situation.
According to IPCC 2007 between 1970 and 2004, global GHG emissions increased by 70 percent. The energy sector contributed largely to global GHG emissions, increasing by about 145 percent. Over the same period, direct emissions from transport expanded by 120 percent; industry 65 percent; and land use by forestry 40 percent.
IPCC 2007, UNEP 2009 points that the country’s arid and semi-arid lands (ASALs) have witnessed a reduction in intense cold temperature occurrences, leading to depletion of glaciers on Mount Kenya. The deletion have negative implications on biodiversity and water supply in the country and tourism, whose continued double-digit growth is crucial to achieving Vision 2030 because of the vital ecological role of mountains.
The country’s growing motor vehicle numbers are commensurate with growths in the human population. Vehicles emit significant levels of air pollutants, including GHGs while charcoal burning emits methane (CH4), carbon monoxide (CO) and particulate matter into the atmosphere. These, together with rising industrial emissions, use of charcoal, wood fuel and open burning of waste, are some of the main sources of atmospheric pollution.
Rainfall is also projected to increase with many models indicating an escalation of heavy rainfall especially during the wet seasons, and an associated flood risk. Seasonal rainfall trends are mixed, with some locations indicating increasing trends while others show no significant changes. The annual rainfall totals show either neutral or slightly decreasing trends due to a general decline in the main long rains (MAM) season.
Along the coast there are signals of sea level increase. This is likely to flood agricultural lands and cause ground water salinity. These effects will be aggravated by escalating human-induced pressures on coastal areas. Sea level rises will also increase the impact of storm surges which have the potential to destroy the coastal infrastructure as has been the case in the recent past.
Consequently, urban populations have risen very swiftly and with that too is increase in GHG emissions. therefore There is need to have initiatives that uphold, development of infrastructure so as to give room for little carbon growth and allow mechanisms for mass transport such as trains and reticulated buses for main commutation, security and good water, administration practices, development of green areas, hygienic landfills, alternative energy technologies like solar heating and cooling systems.
Forests contribution to climate change
When one talks of forests, what normally click into another’s mind are trees. Yes trees are largely what make of forests globally. Forests have four key responsibilities in climate change: presently they add about one-sixth of global carbon emissions when cleared, overused or degraded; they react with sensitivity to a changing climate; when managed well, they generate wood fuels as a benevolent alternative to fossil fuels; and finally, they have the potential to absorb about one-tenth of global carbon emissions expected for the first half of this century into their biomass, soils and products and store them predominantly and in eternity.
In Kyoto, Japan in 1997, the international community undertook a first, concrete step to combat global warming, agreeing to reduce net emissions by 5.2 percent below 1990 levels.
The impending role of forests in reducing of global greenhouse gas emissions is attracting substantial attention from global community. Deforestation and forest dilapidation is mostly being determined by exterior forces.
Many of these forces are closely tied to agriculture like tea, coffee, pyrethrum and others. Therefore, an isolated sectoral approach focusing exclusively on forests cannot be successful in implementing the (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) policies.
While I was on a tour of several counties in the South Rift and Kisii respectively recently, I came across several bunch of firewood arranged at the road side on the main Nairobi Kisii highway. I was perturbed by these and took an attention towards knowing what and where the firewood was intended to be used as fuel. Shockingly, the firewood was to be used as fuel in local tea factories to process tea. Further investigation took me to the interior parts where I encountered several bunches and in large quantities. This shows how local tree species have been cut down to benefit the tea agencies.
Farmers in those areas say they sell the tree to factories in order to earn a living citing high poverty rates in the affected counties. While we acknowledge the economic contribution of the tea sector in the country, we cannot afford to witness trees being cut down to fuel factories whilst there can be alternatives of energy that can be used instead.
It is important for the Government to invest in broadening and strengthening the requisite scientific and technological capacity if the atmospheric resources are to be efficiently controlled in order to meet the ambitious targets outlined in Vision 2030. This is in respect of the useful but scarce role local knowledge and traditional management strategies play in militating against and adapting to climate change and changeability.
Global and regional (COMESA, EAC and IGAD) partnerships in training and research can help to advance the extent to which suitable innovations and technologies in climate change adaptation and mitigation are harnessed to meet the far reaching challenges in the agricultural, forestry and business sectors.