ETHSA2012: Climate change-Africa’s nightmare

Let me not dwell on the obvious fact that the development of the Western powers through industrialisation and the rapid growth of the Chinese and Indian economies has largely been enabled by gross disregard to the environmental consequences of large scale pollution.

Let me also not dwell on the fact that China, the USA, Russia, India, Japan, Germany, Canada, the United Kingdom, South Korea and Italy, are currently the top ten polluters in the world in descending order. That is fact. Should any of these countries dispute this assertion then it would be a simple switching of positions in determining which one of them is the worst polluter but not the fact that they are responsible for more than half the pollution that the world is facing.

Let me also not pay a lot of attention to the fact that the pollution that these countries currently are and in the past have been responsible for is one of the main factors that has contributed to the depletion of the Ozone layer, global warming and climate change.

Global warming

They introduced the system we rely on today where we use fossil fuels to drive our cars, heat our homes, and produce all sorts of goods for our sustenance.  Consequently, carbon dioxide concentrations have increased dramatically leading to increases in atmospheric temperatures what is known as global warming. Large scale farming, use of chemical fertilisers that release nitrous oxides in agriculture, aeroplanes that release harazadous fuels straight into the skies-all these have contributed to pollution. Undeniably we have all benefited from this technology but the price that Africa will bear by far outweighs the benefit.

It therefore doesn’t need me to be an African to be outraged when these same countries refuse to take responsibility for their past actions and start exercising higher levels of responsibility in preventing further harm to our world.

I am not perpetuating the rhetoric of blaming the West for everything that goes wrong with the African continent but the reality and undeniable truth is that the West, America, China and India have cumulatively been the biggest culprits in destroying our world. Yes, they are the main causers of climate change.

Melting Antarctic because of climate change

However what I would rather dwell on is the reality of climate change, particularly on the African continent. Africa is underdeveloped; fact. Africa needs to develop to enable its citizens to live decent lives; also fact. That development is enabled by the use of energy sources of which fossil fuels are the cheapest and easiest and also the easily available ones to the African continent.

Yes, alternative methods of development which are safer for the environment, a process popularly known as developing green economies, are there but they are slow to use and more expensive. Given that African economies are strained and already the effects of slow development are evidenced in populations’ disgruntlement as expressed in social justice movements, small to large scale protests and revolutions; Africa can not afford to wait. But Europe, America, China and Russia could try and use these methods.

This then takes me to the point of my blog-my anger and disgust at these countries that have already made it and still want to keep Africa down. Of course China, India and the Western powers will never agree to use the slower and more expensive but environmentally friendlier methods of development and allow Africa to catch up. Of course they will never agree to reduce their green house emissions and will even go as far as saying all this talk on climate change is a conspiracy against their development plans. And, of course they are happy with the status quo where Africa is incapable of taking care of its own, where they can come in from time to time with outstretched hands of almost insignificant aid which they would need not bring if Africa were given a fair chance to develop its own economies.

But that is also fact. My point is that climate change is real. We have seen it on our continent. Seasons are changing. Famines, droughts, floods, storms, extreme weather elements are ravaging our continent.  Christian Aid estimates that 1 billion people will be displaced because of climate change by 2050.

Climate change in Africa looks like this-drought, famine, food insecurity, starvation, drying rivers, conflict over water, food, death, disease, despair, destruction

As Africans, should we ignore the selfish countries and go ahead with development plans using fossil fuels despite the grave effect on the environment? Should we take the more expensive and time consuming but environmentally friendly methods? But even if we do and the other polluters keep polluting-which they undoubtedly will- meaning that climate change will not be averted and also meaning that we will be the most affected, what then will be the way out for Africa?

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