Aug 17, 2009, 7:08 AM
Hello and a warm welcome to yet another edition of the environment, your weekly column that brings environmental issues to the limelight.
In our today’s edition, we take a closer look at the relationship between climate change and the role of local farmers in trying to reduce climate and climate variability.
Local farmers practising shifting cultivation contribute in land degradation something towards climate change through the practices of shifting cultivation communities.
The anthropogenic actions of the world’s highly industrialized and developed countries continue to affects the African continent, turning her people to abject poverty, malnutrition, diseases and environment refugees.
The so-called developed world such as the US, Europe or China are not seen to be doing much in cutting down anthropogenic emissions because of their economic interests at the expense of the African people.
The economic independent and food security for African people is far from attained and to ensure sustainable development a new stringent regulatory framework, laws, policies and reforms are needed to support the reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions, promote low carbon development pathways and support social, economic and legal transition to address climate change in particular and environmental downturn in general.
The interventions to cope with climate change impacts call for total engagement of stakeholders at national and local levels, to prevent a global average temperature rise of two degree Celsius.
Africa contributes negligibly to the phenomenon of climate change, accounting for less than 3% of the world’s anthropogenic emissions, yet her people continue to suffer the fervent consequences of climate change impacts, such as food insecurity, scarcity of water, land denudation often resulting to landslides, destruction of wetland ecosystems and human wildlife conflict amongst others, which has not only led to overall environmental crisis, but also culminated to starvation and death.
Europe has worked the hardest to implement policies aimed at countering human-caused climate change, yet the cornerstone of Europe’s approaches trading system for the greenhouse gases that cause climate change is in trouble and perhaps it is high time to device a better strategy for the developed world in the crusade to curb human-caused climate change.
The basic story of human-caused climate change is becoming clearer to the global public as several gases, including carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, warm the planet and their concentrations in the atmosphere is in the increase.
As the world economy grows, so do emissions of these gases, accelerating the pace of human-caused climate change. The main greenhouse gas is carbon dioxide and most of its emissions resulted from the burning of fossil fuels coal, oil, and natural gas for energy, global consumption of which is rising as the world economy grows this set the world on a path of very dangerous levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Two decades ago, the world has agreed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions sharply and other greenhouse gases, but little progress has been made; instead the rapid growth of the emerging economies, especially coal-burning China, has caused global carbon dioxide emissions to soar.
Negative changes in climate have already begun and if the world continues on its current trajectory, global temperatures will eventually rise by several degrees centigrade, causing higher sea levels, mega-storms, severe heat waves, massive crop failures, extreme droughts, heavy flooding, and a sharp loss of biodiversity, particularly in Africa.
Changing the world’s energy system is a daunting challenge, because fossil fuels are so deeply embedded in the workings of the global economy and oil provides the main fuel for transportation worldwide.
Coal and gas are burned hugely to produce electricity energy for industries and now the question is how, then can we sustain worldwide economic progress while cutting back sharply on carbon emissions?
There are essentially two solutions, but neither has been deployed on a large scale. The first is to shift massively from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources, especially wind power and solar power. The second solution is to capture carbon dioxide emissions for storage underground.
The technology is called carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) even though it is not yet proven on a large scale but its approach is to capture the CO2 at the power plant as the coal or gas is burned and also to capture it directly from the air using specially designed chemical processes. This technology will require significant investment in furthering research and development before it becomes a viable technology.
Time is the big problem if we had a century to change the world’s energy system, we could feel reasonably secure but we must complete most of the transformation to low-carbon energy by mid-century.
This is extraordinarily difficult given the long transition period needed to overhaul the world’s energy infrastructure, including not only power plants, transmission lines, and transport systems, but also homes and commercial buildings.
Few economic regions have made much progress in this transformation; in fact, the United States is now investing heavily in natural gas without recognizing or caring that its shale-gas boom, based on new hydraulic-fracturing technology, is likely to make matters worse.
Even if the US economy shifts from coal to natural gas, America’s coal will probably be exported for use elsewhere in the world. In any event, natural gas, though somewhat less carbon-intensive than coal, is a fossil fuel; burning it will cause unacceptable climate damage.
However, Europe has tried to make a serious shift away from carbon emissions, creating a system that requires each industrial emitter to obtain a permit for each ton of carbon dioxide emissions, because these permits trade at a market price, companies have an incentive to reduce their emissions, thereby requiring them to buy fewer permits or enabling them to sell excess permits for a profit.
The need for all major world regions to adopt practical and far-sighted energy policies is more urgent than ever.
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