By Alex Turyatemba
In his stimulating article that was published in Sunday Vision of June 22, Edwin Muhumuza asks the question “Is Africa Ready to tackle global warming?”
He begins by re-echoing a recent call by President Museveni to regional leaders under the intergovernmental Authority on development (IGAD) to reclaim wetlands, swamps and forests from encroachers.
The President rightly points out that this would stop aridity from spreading further thus ending the possibility of drugs turning into emergencies.
The truth is Africa, Uganda in particular is far from being ready to tackle climate change.
Yet considering its impact on health, food security and our general wellbeing no other issue is as intimately linked to our survival as global warming.
Food insecurity has already hit many parts of the country. In North and eastern Uganda, rains have become more erratic and tend to fall in heavy showers leading destructive floods in the lowlands and landslides in highland.
Elsewhere, seasons have become more unreliable with rain being less useful due to its distribution and impact. Local varieties in Kasese have disappeared particularly those that take long to mature due to insufficient rains.
In Bundibugyo, cassava no longer yields anything yet the beans have also failed.
Malaria cases are going up throughout the country, particularly in south west Uganda where malaria was unknown indicating that the vectors are expanding their ranges in a warmer world.
The ice caps and glaciers on Mount Rwenzori have reduced by 40% since 1955. Rivers Mubuku and Rwizi are already drying up while lakes Wamala and Bunyonyi are heavily silted. Lake Victoria is also receding.
Two schools in Kasese have been closed due to flooding of River Nyamwamba.
But many Ugandans, including those who are educated are shockingly ignorant about climate change. While many uneducated folks will explain away the effects of climate change as works of an angry God, witchcraft and sorcery, there is a group of educated fellows who think of climate change as an abstract notion invented by scientists. This is annoying. Because it is the latter group that should dispel the myths among the former.
There is an old prophet who, in Hosea 4:6 poignantly stated that, “My people perish due to lack of knowledge”. Perhaps it is helpful to understands the basic of how our planet is heating up.
From the dawn of time, the atmosphere has had a concentration of gases. Greenhouse gases like carbondioxide, nitrogendioxide, ozone, methane trap warmth emitted by the sun, thus heating up the earth and thereby making life on our planet possible.
Without these gases, the earth would be cooler than a freezer at a chilly -18 degrees Celsius! Thanks to the green house gases we enjoy an average temperature of 14 degrees Celsius.
But in what seems like natures brutal irony, the gases that make life on earth possible now threaten to become our benevolent climate killers.
Over accumulation of these gases in the atmosphere is heating up the earth and very fast causing global climate change.
To his detriment, man has since industrial revolution, been throwing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere causing the earth temperature to take a steady steep climb.
But the grace period is over: We can no longer throw greenhouse gases into the atmosphere without being punished for it. We are already in a period of consequences.
Experts warn that we are very close to the point where further increase in temperature will set in motion an uncontrollable cascade of events which will all work together to make life impossible on our endangered planet.
Even though Britain is hailing the resurrection of a native wine industry as temperatures rise and Nepal farmers growing bigger and tastier apples, we all are losing in the long run. Global warming will mean more people die from heat.
There will be a rise in sea levels, more malaria, starvation, poverty, natural disasters and conflicts. Algae blooms in water could be more frequent increasing the risk of diseases like cholera and respiratory diseases may be aggravated by warming induced by increases in smog.
According to a report by Oxfam, people in developing countries like Uganda, whose contribution to global warming is very small, are feeling the impacts of climate change effects first and worst.
Of course this is unfair because we know that the biggest polluters do not live on the African continent but rather in the West. They pollute and we pay the price. Terribly unfair!
Has Mother Nature offered Africa as the sacrificial lamb for the atonement of sins committed by the wealthy nations?
President Museveni was spot on when he announced at an African Union summit last year that developed nations were “committing aggression” against Africa by causing global warming. This is imperialism by other means.
Are we to despair and keep on lamenting about what the industrialised nations have done to us? I suggest that we don’t.
Rather we should use every tool at our disposal to mitigate as well as adapt to these changes. Both mitigation and adaptation require money which our impoverished governments do not have (yet).
We need to have an honest discussion on how the big polluters in the west can help poor nations cope with the effects of the problem they have helped create.
This ought to be easier with H.E Sam Kuteesa at the helm of the UN.
The writer is a lecturer at Medicare Health Professionals College