Inaction on climate change imperils planet

Saturday December 28 2019

Neighbours chat while sitting in a flooded street of the Paquite district of Pemba on April 29, 2019, as Cyclone Kenneth hit northern Mozambique, killing 38 and destroying thousands of home. PHOTO | EMIDIO JOZINE | AFP


The image of more than 200 bodies spread along a road in Zimbabwe following Cyclone Idai in March this year brought home the tragic consequences of climate change.

According to the United Nations Office for Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Cyclone Idai and later Cyclone Kenneth left over 3,000 square kilometres of land in Mozambique submerged and led to landslides that devastated entire villages in Zimbabwe.

The UN adds that Cyclone Kenneth also caused extensive flooding in the northern Comoros Islands and landslides in Cabo Delgado province of Mozambique, destroying more than 285,000 houses.

“This was the first time in recorded history that two cyclones struck the coast of Mozambique in such close succession,” the UN agency reported.

More than 3.8 million people were affected by the cyclones, which coincided with harvest time, leading to losses that compromised food security in a region usually prone to hunger.

Alternating floods and droughts—that have risen in frequency and severity across the continent—seem to have become the norm rather than the exception.


Towards the end of the year, abnormally-heavy rains hit East Africa triggering floods and landslides that left 250 dead and three million more needing relief.

Experts attributed the deluge to the Indian Ocean Dipole which substantially increases water temperatures in the ocean, causes higher evaporation rates off the East African coastline with the resulting convectional rainfall falling inland.

All these are due to climate change, according to experts from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The scientists demonstrated how global warming has continued to threaten water and food supplies as it turns arable lands into desert and killing coral reefs in oceans.

Bad governance

The scientists warned that as the planet heats up, deaths from floods, storms, heatwaves and droughts will escalate unless concrete, significant corrective action is carried out.

The world has, for the past 25 years dilly-dallied on making concrete, collective commitment to reduce, by a significant level, the amount of earth-warming greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere. This inaction was seen during the 2019 global climate meeting held in Madrid, Spain this December.

Negotiations were called off until next year on how to regulate global carbon markets.

In March, more than 3,000 African government, business and civil-society leaders gathered for the Africa Climate Week 2019 in Accra, Ghana agreed to align climate plans with development plans and to secure adequate funding for national climate action plans.

Although public climate finance from the 36-Member Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development to developing countries increased from $37.9b in 2013 to $54.5b in 2017, its impact on the most vulnerable people is yet to be realised.

Studies blame bad governance and corruption for ineffective use of climate funds.

Scientists warn that already, global temperature has risen by more than 1 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels.

At the current rate of emissions, the world will warm by between three and five degrees Celsius, says the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO).

The WMO says in its Greenhouse Gas Bulletin that concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have 407.8 parts per million in 2018, up from 405.5 parts per million in 2017.

To keep the temperature rise at 1.5°C over the pre-industrial revolution levels, an imperative for human survival, Unep’s Emission Gap Report 2019 says that the world must reduce global emissions by between now and 2030.