Report: Kenyans ignorant on climate change

October 17, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 17 – Despite Kenya’s vulnerability to climate change with the severe drought and flooding, many here barely understand what climate change really is, according to a report by the British government agencies.

Research done by the British Council and BBC World Service Trust indicates Kenyans do not have the tools to understand and effectively respond to the changing climate.

“However, the knowledge levels about climate change and global warming did vary between the urban and rural respondents. Urban respondents were more aware of climate change and global warming and they often cited the media as their source of information,” said BBC World Service Trust Research Officer Sam Otieno.

Mr Otieno said on Friday that the voices of citizens who were worst affected was often absent from national and international climate debates.

“And we believe that understanding public perceptions of climate change could help to formulate advice on how governments and the society can more widely deal with this important issue,” he said.

United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Deputy Executive Director Angela Cropper said there is “need to help people to understand more clearly what climate change is, why is it important to them at a local level, what are options they may have, how it might affect them in the immediate and long-term future.” She continued: “I think that requires a very good and systematic approach to public education and especially for rural and remote communities.”

The report dubbed “Africa Talks Climate” stated that most Kenyans attributed changes in the weather principally to deforestation. They linked this to their understanding of the impacts of tree-felling on the local environment and weather. The research focused on the public understanding of climate change in Africa and the first phase was done in 10 countries.

“Most do not recognise the important role that trees play in absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere,” it stated in part.

The report recommended targeted information and resources be channelled to poor rural communities to enable them cope with impacts of climate change.

“All evidence suggests that international climate change discourse is inaccessible to most Kenyans. There is need for information and debate that harness Kenyans’ understanding and experience of their changing weather and environment to create a relevant discourse that promotes citizens engagement in Kenya’s response to climate change,” the report further stated.

A final report will be released in January 2010.


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