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Global Warming: Africa Will Suffer the Worst if we Don’t Act


Friday, May 2, 2008
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Global warming is a reality
and not a myth. That is why I strongly advocate for Africa’s
active participation in joining the global coalitions addressing this important
issue as it is our planet and our lives that are at stake.

African nations that waited
for the United States
to make a move and then take a cue from this “world leader” have been
disappointed by the Bush administration on this matter. Despite former U.S.
Vice President Al Gore’s landmark documentary of “The Inconvenient Truth”, America did not support the Kyoto protocol. It was not until December
2007 when 80 nations from across the world meeting in Bali applied
“arm-twisting” tactics that the Bush administration received its first wake-up call
to jump onto the bandwagon.

A delegate from Papua New Guinea rebuked the United States
in these words: “We seek your leadership. But if for some reason you are not
willing to lead, leave it to the rest of us. Please get out of the way.”

Although the U.S. federal
government has been moving sluggishly on matters of global warming, many
individual states have taken concrete measures to cut fossil fuel emissions and
introduced “clean energy policies” that would save our planet and life on it
after many years of reckless human plunder.

The “inconvenient truth”

Political pundits have
accused the U.S.
administration of delay tactics, for – despite knowing that global warming was
real – believing (wrongly) that addressing such a problem would end up hurting
American industry and its workforce. The Bush experts were wrong here, for, according
to Environmental Protection Agency, studies, “the U.S. acid rain program reduced
sulfur dioxide emissions by more than 30 percent from 1990 levels and cost a
fraction of what the government originally estimated.”

The “inconvenient truth” the
whole world – including Africa! – must face is
that we have a problem caused by burning fossil fuels like coal, oil and
natural gas, as well as cutting down forests. For Africa
(where DDT is still in use in some countries), the problem is real and
desertification is reducing the continent’s capacity to feed itself.

“Between 1961 and 1997, the
world’s glaciers lost 890 cubic miles of ice. Rising air temperatures are the
most important factor behind the retreat of glaciers on a global scale,” according
to Environmental Defense Fund, U.S.
nonprofit organization.

I emphasize here that much of
it is man-made.

Scientists have also observed
that the depletion of the ozone is due to man-made chemicals like “chloro-fluoro carbons (CFCs) leading to
a thinner ozone layer that lets through more harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation
to reach the earth’s surface.”

Millions more to face starvation

 A study by scientists on
global warming concluded that “Nations of South Africa – Angola, Botswana,
Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique,
Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland,
Zambia and Zimbabwe could lose about 30
percent of their main crop of corn (maize) fueling malnutrition through climatic
change.”

About 770 million Africans
who live in rural areas (63 percent of the population) and rely on peasant
small-holder farms for their food and wood as their major source of fuel and
medicinal plants as their main cure against disease; recurring droughts,
floods, and soil degradation can be a real nightmare.

Africa today is facing climate change by way of warming
temperatures in drought-prone areas, sea levels are rising, coral beaches are
being eaten away on its coastlines, glaciers on mountains are melting away, and
epidemics are on the rise.

Let me bring up a few
examples of real issues: In Senegal, sea-level rising has eaten away parts of
Rufisque on the south coast. An alarming 92 percent of Mount
Kenya’s Lewis Glacier has disappeared over the last 100 years. For
Tanzania
and its majestic Kilimanjaro, 82 percent of its ice has disappeared since 1912
and it is projected that the whole ice cap will vanish by the year 2020.

For Uganda, glaciers on Mount Ruwenzori
have decreased by 75 percent since 1990s. For the coastline of East Africa,
coral bleaching has occurred in Seychelles,
Kenya, Reunion,
Mauritius, Somalia and Madagascar. Lake
Chad’s surface area has decreased from 9,650 square miles in 1963
to 521 today.

In January 2000, South Africa experienced its driest record
temperatures of 104 F (40 C) fueling extensive fires on the coast in the West Cape Province. Indeed the African continent is in
peril.

 African and climate change ‘intrinsically linked’

 Scientists have predicted
that due to global warming, less rain will fall in parts of Africa
leading to “a decrease in water-availability in about 25 percent of the
continent.” Less water in the continent will adversely affect both human and
animal lives as well as the entire ecosystem in the region.

Nobel Peace Laureate Archbishop
Desmond Tutu of South Africa
has issued this clarion call: “It is important to understand that Africa and climate change are intrinsically linked, as
climate change will affect the welfare of Africans for years to come.”

The British newspaper, The
Independent, observed: “Aid policy for Africa as a whole needs a complete
rethink in climate change terms, because the continent is uniquely vulnerable
to climatic shifts, with 70 percent of its people being immediately dependant
on rain-fed, small scale agriculture.”

 Given the ugly truth before
our eyes, what is the way forward for Africa?
The African Union must take it upon itself to form a continental coalition to
address global warming and collectively strategize through research to help
find solutions that will save lives and stop the plunder that is destroying our
planet.

 I wish to repeat just one
more time (at the expense of boring you?) that there is strength in Unity,
hence my unapologetic call for the creation of a United States of Africa to
help find common solutions to common problems facing us.

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About Swallehe Msuya

Swallehe Msuya was a senior staff writer at Mshale with extensive media experience in his native Tanzania. He was a general assignments writer. Investigative stories that Mshale undertook were normally his responsibility. Swallehe passed away in Sept. 2009 at the age of 61. Mshale will forever miss his tenacity and wisdom.

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