IF you are worried about the future of your children and that of your children’s children and whether our planet earth will still be habitable in 100 years’ time, you have every right to be because you cannot ship them off to Mars or Jupiter.
Things are likely to get worse. The effects of climate change and global warming on humanity, particularly in Africa where poverty is widespread, will be difficult to reverse.
Mitigatory and adaptative actions may be insufficient to achieve the desired results.
National Climate Change Co-ordinator in the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources Management Mr Washington Zhakata said the complex nature of global climate change negotiations provided little hope world temperatures would be maintained within manageable levels in the next century.
“We are very far from achieving the Kyoto targets,” Mr Zhakata said, in response to a question on whether multilateral climate talks under the UN’s banner were capable of achieving functional agreements that meet with humanity’s social, economic and environmental expectations.
“Hopes for significant emission reductions are not near. It is, however, important to keep talking until we attain intended outcomes,” Mr Zhakata told journalists at a climate change workshop in Harare last week, where he presented a paper: “International Climate Debates — The Public Sector View”.
Mr Zhakata said the absence of concrete, verifiable outcomes on global emission reductions meant more trouble for developing nations, Zimbabwe included.
He spoke as global greenhouse gases emissions (GHGs) have actually increased since the signing of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997.
The Protocol is the only legally binding global agreement committing nations to reduce emissions in an effective manner.
However, since its signing, GHG emissions have not declined but continued to rise, rallying 5 percent in 2011 and by 49 percent since 1990, according to the
International Energy Agency.
The agency estimates that at least 30 billion tonnes of carbons are dumped into the atmosphere every year from human activity led by the US and China, which contribute about 50 percent of all world emissions. Scientists blame the excessive production of greenhouse gases for rising world temperatures, which have increased by 0,6 degrees Celsius over the past century.
The African situation has been most dire: average temperatures have climbed 0,8 degrees Celsius in the last half-century.
At the current emissions rate, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns that the world risked a warming of up to 6 degrees Celsius by 2100 with catastrophic results on human beings, animals and their environments.
A manageable growth would be strictly below 2 degrees Celsius, scientists say.
But all that is just scientific evidence. The reality is that the world is burning fast.
Mr Zhakata gave an example of the planet Venus, whose atmosphere consisted 95 percent carbon dioxide leading to average temperatures of 95 degrees Celsius.
He said the earth’s average temperature was 15 degrees Celsius with only an insignificant amount of GHGs in the atmosphere (at least by acceptable human standards).
Highlighting the relationship between higher emissions and global temperature increases, Mr Zhakata warned of the urgent need to keep GHG growth under close check, which was proving difficult at present.
Adaptation key challenge for Zim
Mr Zhakata said adaptation, mitigation and technology transfer programmes were not adequately financed at international climate change meetings.
Copenhagen (2009), Mexico (2010) and Durban (2011) had all failed to come up with functional financial plans to fund response strategies in developing countries, which are affected by changing climatic conditions the most.
Durban established the Green Climate Fund but it is still empty. “Most African countries are seen to abuse funds, channelling them towards non-core activities. And at
Durban, therefore, developed countries were reluctant to release funds,” he said.
It is also true, however, that funding has remained thin, as a result of the current global financial crisis, which has left some European countries bankrupt.
In Zimbabwe, Mr Zhakata said, adaptation was the main challenge. People were failing to cope with the impacts of climate change because the situation “was so extensive”.
Agriculture, the country’s mainstay, has been the worst affected sector here, as the frequency and intensity of droughts, floods aided by highly unpredictable rainfall patterns, have seriously threatened food security.
Mr Zhakata hoped the national climate change policy, which is currently under development, would provide Zimbabwe with clearly defined strategies to better deal with the effects of climate change.
Environment Africa country director Mr Barnabas Mawire said responding to climate change in Zimbabwe was difficult but several strategies were being employed, and were working.
He cited agroforestry and conservation farming, which allow for diversification, less dependency on one crop, as strategies that could help people adapt better.
“Communities must be able to produce and manage own crops. Well-managed forests are important. They may be used for beekeeping (honey production).
“Trees also provide oxygen, medicines and oil for lighting that can be sold for a profit,” Mr Mawire said.
There is sufficient evidence the climate has been changing in Zimbabwe. The Meteorological Services Department says temperatures have risen by up to 0,7 degrees Celsius since the early 1900s while precipitation has fallen by nearly 15 percent, mostly in the Midlands, Masvingo and Matabeleland provinces.
There have been sustained instances of extreme cold winters or heat during summers among several other indicators.
God is faithful.