Climate Change may be a political game for the West, for us it’s real
Ever since former US Vice-President Al Gore toured the globe with his scary rendition of what a post apocalyptic climate chaos world would look like, Climate Change has been hijacked by various interest groups for political gain. From this ensued a confusing, debilitating worldwide bickering, entertaining to some extent, but extremely harmful for us in Africa.
Climate Change is real. Regardless of the terminology, the perceptible changes in meteorological base values are well documented by scientists. Whether you call it Climate Change or Climate Modification, it is an empirical fact that all metrics have undergone a significant shift over the past fifty years compared to the 200 years before that. Whether it stems from human activity or the natural cycles of creation, it is there and it is more visible every year.
I know that there are various schools of thought in climatology and that these are not in agreement. Some say climate change is as natural as the tides, only on much longer timeframes, others say it is all bogus and only propagated by a handful of scientists on the payrolls of large corporations. The former deny the facts, while the latter tend to cry wolf over every new iceberg that separates itself from the Larsen C shelf. Still there are a growing number of scientists linking the earth’s cooling and warming phases to conditions on the sun, convincingly indicating that the quanta of energy released by the sun over many years are on the decline.
It therefore came as a surprise to find a sane assessment and a sane appraisal of the whole debate coming from a delegate at a conference on drought held in China. At the COP 13 meeting in Ordos, China, the top climatologists joined poliltical leaders to discuss the havoc we are wreaking on the globe’s climate and what can be done about it.
Incidently, our Minister of Environment and Tourism, Hon Pohamba Shifeta also deliverd a brief but coherent and considered view of how Climate Change and desertification are stark realities for Namibia.
Nevertheless, the presenter that caught my attention offered a new view, or interpretation if you like, of what climate change means here and now. First, he acknowledged that a confusing quasi-scientific debate is raging and that it is almost impossible to prove anybody’s claims because climate timeframes span millenia. He further acknowledged that the process has been hijacked despite the Paris Accord and he acknowledged that Third World countries are at the mercy of what the G7 do.
But, and this is the crux, he also said that from empirical observations since 1980, it is clear that anomalous, extreme weather events are happening with greater intensity and with greater frequency and that this divergence can be expected to wax. No that is pure unbridled reality, we see it from year to year and from decade to decade.
His “new” view immediately provides a novel framework to interpret what is happening on the ground, especially in Africa. We do not need this science faction or that political agenda to tell us extreme weather is growing in ferocity and frequency, we see it, we feel it, we live with its consequences.
The obvious next question is, what can or must we do about it. I think in this regard, our own minister provided some guidance by telling the COP meeting African countries need support for developing reliable so-called early-warninig systems first, and then assistance for improving our ability to respond to emergencies, either short-term like a flood, or longer-term like a drought. In essence, the only workable took available to us now, is to strengthen the structures that help us to mitigate emergencies brought on by climate change.
Admittedly this is still reactive, and it would probably take many years to switch to pro-active interventions, but for now, it is a sensible, reasonable approach to a set of unpredictable changes which has a direct impact on how live, or die.
I think it is futile for us to get involved in the to and fro of a debate for which I do not see any decisive end soon. We simply can not fully and comprehensively predict or control the weather but we can be prepared for what it throws at us.
We need to distance ourselves from the meaningless and futile debate and work on support structures at community level. We do not have oil refineries (not yet), or nuclear power stations (not yet) or any other heavy industry for which an event like hurricanes Harvey and Irma can be catastrophic but we do have more than 70% of our people still directly dependent on the land they live on, and on the rain (or lack of it) they receive.
If we ensure that our emergency responses are in place at community level, it means we have a fall-back system for the majority of the population. If we further plan our development in such a way that we prepare for water shortages, or rather water saving, in Windhoek and in the larger towns, then we have most of us covered.
Let the world carry on debating whether Climate Change is real, we know it is. Meanwhile we make sure we have the ability to mitigate the impact by implementing those responses that provide the greatest relief in the shortest time.
Image courtesy of NASA: An extra-ordinary 2017 Namibian thunderstorm developing over land parched in the 2016 drought.