global warming, africa cannot afford passivism

Climate change is increasingly becoming an issue in African states as more and more of them get exposed to the effects of global warming – the glaciers are disappearing from the top of Mt. Kirinyaga (Mt. Kenya) and Mt. Kilimanjaro and the sea level off Africa’s coasts continues to rise. On this issue, African countries like most developing countries, find themselves between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand there is a need to cut green house gas emissions in order to avoid the catastrophic consequences that will befall the planet, but on the other hand these same countries need to industrialise using cheap means that may not necessarily be green. Green technology in its current rudimentary state simply cannot power industries.

Global warming is real, but at the same time it would be morally unacceptable to continue delaying poor countries’ development by forcing them to go green in this stage of their economic development. For instance countries in Africa contribute only 2.5% of the total global green house gas emissions. Currently green energy is expensive and cannot be used in an industrial scale. This does not give poor countries a carte blanche to pollute as much as they want as they continue to industrialise. Industrialisation should go on under strict regulation in order to keep the pollution levels to a minimum.

Africa also needs to seriously plan for the consequences of having a warmer planet. Some countries like Niger and the Central African Republic have made great strides in trying to stop the spread of the Sahara by having successful tree growing programmes even with their rather meagre resources. The AU should learn from these two countries and take up a leading role in campaigning for a green (or just about as green as can be done) industrial revolution on the continent, devoid of the wastefulness that continues to characterize modern living in cities around the world. The Kofi Anan headed Alliance for Green Revolution, I believe, is a step in the right direction and will play a vital role in providing food security for the continent’s peoples when the going gets tough due to global warming induced famines.

Climate change is a global problem and needs to be tackled through a coordinated effort by all players – underdeveloped and developed alike. Indeed it is the developing countries that should be most voluble in this campaign because as the earth warms up and the frequency of droughts increase, the hardest hit will not be the owners fossil energy guzzlers in the developed countries but hapless farmers somewhere in the global south countryside who have never owned a motor car or a CFC emitting gadget.