Why we need to worry about climate change

July 23, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya Jul 23 – Environmental degradation has a direct impact on the climate. The weather generation mechanisms remain basically the same but as the various weather elements interact with the environment, the manifestation of weather conditions change.

In Kenya, our highlands have suffered heavy environmental degradation through deforestation as the population looks for better agricultural lands, timber, wood fuel and other means of livelihoods in the forests. This automatically changes the environment to which weather elements come in contact.

For example, where weather elements come in contact with the cool temperatures in the water towers, it is now slightly warmer albeit by less than a degree. This changes weather there and other activities that depend on weather conditions are affected.

The life cycles of many wild plants and animals are closely linked to the passing of the seasons; climatic changes can lead to interdependent pairs of species (e.g a wild flower and its pollinating insect) losing synchronization.

An increase in any of the dependent factors could lead to extinctions or changes in the distribution and abundance of species.

Change in ecological systems will also lead to disappearance of some wild animal species which we largely depend on for our tourism.

The world’s climate appears now to be changing at unprecedented rate. In theory, a change in climate would be expected to cause changes in the geographical range and seasonal patterns. Kenya has not been spared.

The adverse impacts of Climate Change are already having their toll in the livelihoods of people in almost all sectors of the economy in the region. Frequent and severe droughts are being felt with their associated consequences on food production and water scarcity among others.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report (IPCC AR4) predicts that temperature will keep on rising if the current trend of green house gases (GHG) emissions, particularly by the developed countries, is not reduced.

The continued increase of the average global temperature will further aggravate the situation leading to climate variability and increased vulnerability of the communities to the impacts of Climate Change and also affecting almost all the sectors of the economy, especially Agriculture, water, Energy, Health and forestry to mention a few.

In 2000 La Nina drought, Kenya was forced to reduce the level of operation in some of the Hydro Electric Power (HEP) stations as a result of low level of water flows into dams serving power stations.

This led to other options like gas-powered generators and thermal energy sources most of which are expensive. Power rationing for both domestic and industrial use affected its economic activities leading to inefficiency in service provision to the public.

Climate change has been responsible for increase in rainfall in some parts leading to floods and lack of rainfall in other parts of the region leading to droughts.

We need to start planting more trees to increase our forest cover which will contribute significantly to carbon sinks to reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Mr Shaka is the Assistant Director, Public Weather and Media Services


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