By Gideon Shambire
In the 18th century, scientists like Benjamin Franklin claimed that that the chemical of the atmosphere could bring about climatic variations.
Then came suggestions that carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere were increasing because of fossil fuel burning. This could raise surface temperatures and lead to worldwide climate change.
Today global warming is a pulsating word. It has created considerable media attention and become a complicated, even emotional, issue.
As never before, the media has been swamped by reports on a number of alarming global warming related phenomena; Tsunamis, increase in greenhouse gases, the ozone hole, major El Nino events, rising sea level, melting glaciers, increase of hurricanes, floods, drought, summer heat waves to mention.
A report by World Health Organisation indicates that, between 75-250 million people in the World are projected to be exposed to an increased water stress due to climate change by 2020. Also by the same year in some countries of Africa, yields from rainfall agriculture could be reduced by 50%.
Agriculture production, including access to food in many African countries is projected to be severely compromised. In Uganda alone the signs of climatic change coupled with shortage of water are over whelming.
The long drought spells plus the hot scorching sunshine have become the order of the day. One reason for these patterns is the conversion of wetlands into settlement and industrial parks.
These ecosystems occupy the Eco tones and perform important regulatory functions such as flood control and ground water recharge.
Once these swamps are encroached upon, then we can be sure that the impact of climate on our health is going to be tremendous.
These few case studies demonstrate what many everyday people believe is the ‘spell’ cast on the African continent by the impact of climate change.
With the African rain-fed agriculture being the most vulnerable sector to climate variability, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) report revealed that the overall global warming is expected to add in one way or another to the difficulties of food production and result in food scarcities.
As Africa lives on the edge, life, therefore, becomes a burden in the continent of 1.1 billion people, 800 million of whom live below the poverty line amid severe malnutrition, diseases, armed conflicts, rising food and energy prices, human rights abuses, press freedom violations and frequent power outages.
The world Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that human- induced climate change already claims over 150,000 lives worldwide every year.
The health impact of climate change include the direct consequences of more extreme weather events such as landslides, heat waves, drought and floods; and the spread of infectious diseases with high mortality including cholera, gastroenteritis particularly in water stressed communities.
In Uganda, the climatic impact on the environment is way too obvious given the recent Bududa land slide that led to the death of many and orchestrated the evacuation of hundreds of the inhabitants of the area.
The recent over flow and change of course of river Nyamwamba in Kasese that resulted into displacement of people, destruction of property and halting communication lines is with no doubt a result of climate change.
In the midst of all this we ask ourselves a number of questions. Where did we go wrong? What have we not done right? What should we do? And many other questions that continue to linger on our minds.
Of course the answers lay with us; of recent we have come to know that environmental and economic crisis has generated growing political interest to invest in a greener and more sustainable economy.
In fact among the three key drivers to emerge from the economic and environmental crisis is the Europe 2020 strategy.
A European strategy for smart sustainable and inclusive growth has identical sustainable growth. The European Union targets for sustainable growth include; reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, increasing the share of renewables in final energy consumption to 20% and moving towards a 20% increase in energy efficiency.
This is basically what the developed world is doing, but however, we are in this together and the developing world should play its part too.
In Uganda’s case, the economy depends on agriculture and climate offers great potential for food production. But prolonged and frequent drought as well as floods virtually affects food supply including water resources which is known to play a pivotal role for sustainable development and poverty reduction in Uganda.
Climate change is therefore a serious risk to poverty reduction and threatens to undo decades of development efforts through destruction of infrastructure, property and lives.
There is need for every stake holder to come together for a common good; plant trees, preserve the available forests and avoid swamp reclamation so as to reverse the impacts of climate change.
The writer is a research associate, Agency for Transformation