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Red alert on climate change

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 28 – Kenya could face tragic consequences in the next 30 years if the issue of climate change is not given due attention, according to climate experts.

Professionals said droughts will increase in intensity, rainfall will be more severe and 17 percent of the coastal area will be submerged by a sea-level rise of up to 30 centimetres if the destruction of the environment goes on unchecked.

Chairman of the National Climate Change Activities Coordinating Committee (NCCACC), Professor Richard Odingo, said on Wednesday that action should be taken promptly based on the early warning information given.

“We need to have a permanent team working with the meteorologists and getting ready for the events like droughts or floods,” he stressed.

Climate models predict an increase in climate variability, indicating that Kenya’s vulnerability is set to get worse.  

Agriculture, tourism, health, energy, transport and infrastructure, water supply and sanitation are the sectors expected to be those most severely affected by climate change in the long term (late 2020s to 2100).

Professor Odingo pointed out that the challenge for Kenya would be to ensure that climate change is not seen as just an environmental problem, but as an issue cutting to the very heart of economic and social development, with profound impacts on the activities of all sectors of society.

“We should be prepared for this all the time because all the information is here,” he further stated.

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The Professor was speaking during the launch of a new study on the economic impacts of climate change in Kenya, where the head of the team Thomas Downing outlined priority areas of the programme.

“We have seen over and over in Kenya, the effects of climate change; food crisis, droughts, floods, coastal problems, those are well known and documented and those must be our first priority.” Mr Downing stated.

“We cannot cope with climate change 20 years in the future unless we have addressed the current threats and the livelihoods of real people in Kenya,” he added.

The study is being undertaken by the Stockholm Environment Institute and is funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA).  

National co-ordination of study work is being led by the NCCACC, which will advise and collaborate with the study team.

The study aims to assess climate change impacts and their economic costs for Kenya, and will also analyse the costs and benefits of adapting to these effects over different timescales.

The study methodology will use a range of national experts and institutions in order to enhance national capacity.

The results will be used to inform decision-making at domestic, regional and international policy level.

Many sectors of Kenya’s economy are extremely vulnerable to current climate variability.  

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Factors that contribute to this vulnerability include: high levels of poverty, insufficient institutional capacity, limited disaster management capacity, limited access to financial resources, and a high proportion of livelihood systems that depend directly on climate sensitive natural resources.

“Adapting to climate variations and climate change is not just an option, it is necessary,” Mr Downing emphatically stated.

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