EDITORIAL COMMENT : Cyclone Idai: Wake-up call to climate change Chipangayi river in chipinge

For doubting Thomases, Tropical Cyclone Idai brings vital lessons that climate change is now with us. The deadly cyclone, whose effects were mainly felt in Manicaland, left death and destruction of property in its wake.

The increase in cyclones and other extreme weather phenomena like droughts and floods, clearly indicate that climate change effects are intensifying. 

Sheila Loudon Ross in her book “Weather and Climate: An Introduction” published in 2017, names climate change as “climate disruption, climate chaos and climate crisis”.

This definition fits well with Cyclone Idai’s crisis-induced weather, which has been preceded by unpredictable weather patterns, frequent droughts, floods, high temperatures and many other disruptive weather conditions in recent past.

While we cannot completely stop climate change, there is much the Government can do to adapt to the weather phenomenon.

After all the tumult surrounding Cyclone Idai dies down, it will be critical for Government to have a re-look at the adaptive strategies to climate change which it has put in place.

What is needed is for people to continue surviving even after the devastating effects of climate change.

As a country, we should be prepared to counter those effects of climate change so that people are assured that even in the case of such major disasters, life will still go on.

For this to work, there is need for people to unite in the face of such a disaster as witnessed mainly in Chimanimani district.

That Zimbabwe has committed itself to adapting to climate change is of no doubt, but more needs to be done to ensure the adaptive capacity is improved so as to caution victims.

Mobilisation of resources in such a disaster should be of uttermost importance, with millions of dollars needed to ensure everything is in place.

There is urgent need for medicines, shelter, food and new homes for the survivors of Cyclone Idai.

The truth of the matter is that Government cannot go it alone in such circumstances, mainly because the demands of the disaster are far reaching and need more resources to ensure everyone is safe.

Guided by the provisions of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol, there is need to mobilise everyone to ensure that the country’s adaptive capacity to climate change is top-notch.

Climate change adaptation is heavily-linked to development, and there is no way Zimbabwe can progress without tackling the effects of climate change.

While climate change does not cause poverty, it actually worsens it due to its effect on the livelihood of people.

For instance, people in Chimanimani have lost everything they depended on for their survival.

Their crops and livestock have been washed away by the floods caused by the tropical cyclone, while a number of families have lost their breadwinners.

The infrastructure; roads, bridges, schools, electricity pylons and many others, has been destroyed by the floods and the heavy winds. In light of this, the developmental agenda for the area has been critically affected.

This is why there has been increasing calls to link climate change to development, hence our appeal for more robust ways of adapting to the weather phenomenon.

We are aware of the National Climate Policy and the National Climate Change Response Strategy, whose bid is to consolidated the adaptation processes to climate change in Zimbabwe.

It is these national policies that should guide the authorities in building the adaptive capacity to climate change, but recognising that climate change occurs in a multiple-stressor environment, making it a complex issue.

This calls for a holistic approach to fighting the effects of climate change and ensure that communities are cushioned even in the event of devastating cyclones.

Cyclones that hit Zimbabwe have increased in the near past, a sign that climate change is fast taking its hold on the country.

There was Cyclone Eline in 2000, Cyclone Japhet in 2003, Cyclone Dineo in 2017 and now Cyclone Idai, all with devastating effects.

In between, the country has experienced El Nino conditions that have resulted in several droughts.

As a developing country with less resources to facilitate easy adaptation to climate change, Zimbabwe has to go the extra mile, especially when such disasters occur.

But the consequences of climate change are inevitable, and we experiencing them through cyclones like Cyclone Idai.

Our communications systems, for instance, remain one of the most notable measures to adapting to climate change, and these should always be accessible to communities to ensure information reaches them fast enough to take necessary measures.

We have to always anticipate the occurrence of climate change-induced disasters as the first line of adaptation.

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