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February 23, 2019

ALEX AWITI: Global warming impacts demands that we act

A file photo of Wajir residents walking past carcasses. Climate change is amplifying risks from drought, floods, storm and rising seas, threatening countries.
A file photo of Wajir residents walking past carcasses. Climate change is amplifying risks from drought, floods, storm and rising seas, threatening countries.

The release of the Fourth National Climate Assessment Report for the United States of America elicited swift reaction from President Donald Trump. Speaking to America’s press President Trump said, “I have seen it, I have read some of it. I don’t believe it.”

 The report was issued by 13 federal agencies, which are presided over by Trump’s appointees, presents the most dire warning to date of the consequences of climate change for the US economy, its natural resources, communities and their health.

 We are in this together. At the global scale, previous assessment reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have warned of record-breaking storms, forest fires, drought, coral bleaching, heat waves and floods around the globe.

 In the last decade, we have witnessed the tangible but deadly impacts of climate change. These include increasing water scarcity in arid and semi-arid regions, record rains in wet areas, more severe heat waves and wildfires of unprecedented ferocity.

 While the impacts of climate change are real, President Trump continues to dispute its science. When he questioned the US climate change report, he wondered how searing cold on Thanksgiving could occur when the planet was supposed to be warming. “Whatever happened to Global Warming?” Trump Twitted.

 Climate change is indeed an existential threat to all mankind and all lifeforms on the planet. More importantly, generations not born yet will suffer the most catastrophic impacts of the actions and choices of those alive today. All of us — politicians, businesses, communities, young and old — must act now to slow down the rate of global warming.

 That is why the “Strike 4 Climate Action” by thousands of Australian schoolchildren is heartening. The children marched, even after Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison had urged them to be “less activist”. Whatever that means.

 One of the children Lucie Atkin-Bolton, 11, had these profound words to say; “When kids make a mess, adults tell us to clean it up and that’s fair. But when our leaders make a mess, they’re leaving it to us to clean up.”

We must all clean up after ourselves.

 The elite, business, owners, the lobbyists and politicians have written laws that encourage profligate use of fossil fuels and they continue to frustrate the path to de-carbonising the global economy. We cannot continue to damage our atmospheric resources and leave it for our children to clean up.

 As was noted in the Sixth Assessment Report and all other IPCC reports, global warming is manmade. And only humans can act to revers the dangerous warming trends, which if unchecked will wipe out all lifeforms on the planet.

 Regardless of what Trump believes, climate change risks are interconnected. The impacts are also interconnected, and span national, regional and continental scales. Hence, while our actions must be singular and local, they must be joined. We are in this together. We can only solve this together. Time for climate change denial is long gone. It is time to act.

Alex O. Awiti is Vice Provost and director of the East Africa Institute at Aga Khan University

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