CLIMATE CHANGE: END IS NIGH FOR HUMANITY (OR NOT!)

BACKGROUND

About 40 years ago, James Ephraim Lovelock – an English Scientist, Futurist and Environmentalist formulated the Gaia hypothesis that postulated how the climate would change with time as a result of human activities on the environment.  True to his prediction, the global village is currently experiencing possibly the worst climatic catastrophes ever known to mankind as a result of changes in the weather patterns.This article seeks to analyse the link between the effects of human activities and their impact on the environment and the subsequent change in the global climate currently being experienced. Furthermore, this paper also attempts to interrogate the origin and effects of tropical Cyclone Idai – arguably one of the worst climatic catastrophes that extensively ravaged and decimated parts of Southern Africa in March 2019.

WHAT IS CLIMATE CHANGE?

According to IPCC (2007), climate change means change in the state of the climate that can be identified (e.g., by using statistical tests) by changes in the mean and/or the variability of its properties, and that persists for an extended period, typically decades or longer. These extreme changes in the climate system have been deduced by scientists to be mainly as a result of human activities on the Earth System which have in turn led to the increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

INFLUENCE OF HUMANS

Since the start of the Industrialization period, human beings have been negatively affecting the global climatic system. Global atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane have all risen significantly over the last few hundred years since Industrial Revolution (1800). All these greenhouse gases have doubled ever since the pre-industrial period and according to the IPCC report of 2013, these increases have been as a result of human activities such as agriculture and the use of fossil fuel.

EFFECTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE

Changes in the climatic variables has resulted in the increase of air and ocean temperatures which has led to rising sea levels, drought (figure 1) , melting ice and snow in the Polar Regions, changes in rainfall patterns, flooding and also catastrophic weather events such as cyclones.

Figure 1: Image by andreas160578 from Pixabay

RUMOUR HAS IT…………………

According to scientists, Cyclone Idai that hit some parts of Southern Africa (Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe) was as a result of climate change. It left more than 1000 people dead in its wake, close to a million people displaced and unaccounted for, infrastructure worth millions of dollars destroyed, most domesticated animals dead and crops totally written off. Water borne diseases like cholera and typhoid were also reported as well as pests and rodents which descended and caused havoc on the spared crop fields thereby further compounding the food security situation in the affected countries.

HOW TO TACKLE CLIMATE CHANGE

Worldwide, most countries have now introduced ways to mitigate against adverse climatic variations and deterioration (variables from alternating) by promulgating laws and regulations which aim to decrease the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere by severely punishing unfriendly environmental behaviour and activities there-to. In Zimbabwe the Environmental Management Agency (EMA), Forestry Commission of Zimbabwe (FCZ), Department of national Parks (DNP) and the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) are all agents that assist in the enforcement of the country’s environmental laws. The Ministry of Agriculture through its Agritex Officers stationed in the rural areas of Zimbabwe also help mainly subsistence farmers with sustainable methods of agriculture which are all environmental friendly.

However, enforcement of these laws and regulations have not brought the level of satisfaction to environmental conservation efforts as evidenced by rampant cutting down of trees, deforestation, land degradation, river and dam siltation through stream bank cultivation, uncontrolled veld fires, heavy reliance on fossil fuels in manufacturing industries and motor vehicles .

It is thus high time that African Governments – with Zimbabwe in particular, invested in innovative technologies to complement the measures they currently have in place to assist in environmental conservation which will in turn positively impact the global climatic conditions.  Zimbabwe can therefore adopt the use of drones (figure 2) which can help in monitoring and quantification of levels of dangerous gases in the atmosphere as well as track how much gases industries are releasing into the atmosphere.

Figure 2: Image by Pexels from Pixabay

The drones can also be deployed and used to monitor mining and farming activities in selected areas so as to ascertain that no illegal activities are being practised by individuals and companies. Meanwhile some parts of Midlands and Mashonaland provinces are slowly turning into deserts due to rampant cutting down of trees for firewood and tobacco drying whilst Chiadzwa village in Marange (Manicaland) has been turned upside down due to disorderly methods of mining diamonds. Drones would therefore – after being deployed – bring relevant information in terms of reports and statistical data real time to the relevant stakeholders (as amplified above)  who can then be in a position to timeously act upon the same without any further delays or prejudice to the environment

By Setina G Mangwazi

     Environmentalist

    Student at the University of Zimbabwe

   GIS Intern at Scout Aerial Africa

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