Time to curb the second pandemic

In Summary

• The impact of climate change has compounded on woes facing some of the countries on the continent including Mozambique which already faces insecurity concerns leading to the displacement of persons.

• Global calls to action are should now be backed by financing to plug the resources needed to contain climate change.

U.S. President Joe Biden is flanked by Vice President Kamala Harris and White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients as he speaks about the status of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccinations and his administration's ongoing pandemic response?in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 21, 2021.
U.S. President Joe Biden is flanked by Vice President Kamala Harris and White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients as he speaks about the status of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccinations and his administration's ongoing pandemic response?in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the White House in Washington, U.S., April 21, 2021.
Image: FILE

The end of this month will mark the first year anniversary of widespread lockdowns around the world to contain the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.

While the global health crisis remains a profound threat to the world population, a second pandemic has been slowly simmering to a boil behind the dark cloud of coronavirus infections.

This past week, leaders from 41 countries led by the United States met virtually to address the catastrophe which is climate change.

In spite of the negative impact from Covid-19 last year, restriction measures taken by governments including less air travel and work from home arrangements cut back carbon and other related emissions.

As one would put it in summary, the earth was breathing again. Many of us remember the various images published by media around the world showing this marvel.

For instance, the streets of Beijing were clear off fog for the first time in years while the Himalays ranges which host the world’s highest peak-Everest were visible from parts of India.

Kenyans joined in on the amusement posting up ‘photoshops’ of Mount Kenya’s visibility from Westlands in Nairobi.

Nevertheless, the cut back on pollution from pandemic driven factors has failed to hold following the re-opening of economies around the world.

For instance, data on pollution and air quality shows a majority of countries have since reverted to their pre-pandemic levels of emissions and air pollution, much to the disappointment of anti-climate change activists and proponents.

The return of the prodigal

In spite of the reversal to gains on climate change, this month has seen the return of the US to its position as a leader in climate change.

Just like the prodigal son in bible teachings, the economic powerhouse is now, under the administration of President Joe Biden, walking back into global consensus on climate change represented by the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement after years in the climate unconscious wilderness.

Ahead of November’s United Nations (UN) backed Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, President Biden hosted 40 world leaders in a virtual summit to reinforce the country’s commitment to climate change mitigation.

The US is now going for ambitious cuts in emissions surpassing targets set under the administration of Barrack Obama.

In his address at the summit, President Biden says the US will target cutting emissions by 50 to 52 per cent by 2030 based on 2005 emissions levels.

Other countries which made high ambitions on aggressive cuts to greenhouse gases emissions include Japan- a 46 per cent cut to emissions, Canada and the United Kingdom which says it will cut emissions by 78 per cent.

Advanced pledges were also made at the summit with South Korea for instance detailing that it will stop bankrolling the financing of new coal power plants in other countries.

On its part, the European Union (EU) adjusted its 2030 targets by aiming for a cut of 55 per cent of emissions below 1990 levels in addition to reaching carbon neutrality by 2050.

Speaking at the conference, EU Chief Ursula von der Leyen warned global warming is rising dangerously while terming consensus on climate change as humanities life insurance.

The EU is additionally expected to set a new record in its plan to establish the world’s first-ever climate law.

The virtual summit on climate change acted as a platform to reinforce global action on the silent pandemic which if left unchecked could spell the beginning of the end for life on planet earth.

A feverish world According to available scientific data, the global average temperature has continued to rise unabated in recent decades with the greater hit being attributed to human activity, and in specific, the burning of fossil fuels.

Data from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) shows sea levels have risen by about eight inches since 1880 and the levels are flashing the red lights with predictions showing ocean levels would rise by up to eight feet by 2100.

Currently, the average global temperature is rising by about 0.2 per cent per decade putting the planet on a collision course with climate change catastrophe.

A cut of just one to three degrees Celsius is tipped to result in a significant reversal to the impact of global warming on the planet.

The average global temperature today sits at 15 degrees Celcius. Carbon levels on the atmosphere have swelled by 30 per cent since the pre-industrial phase presenting a catalogue of challenges for the world’s population.

The heat is on

Observable effects from climate change have included the shrinking of glaciers, the pre-mature breaking of ice on lakes and rivers, more and intense heat waves and the changing of weather patterns.

A grim prediction for instance shows the arctic is likely to become ice-free by 2050.Back home, the impact of climate change is visible from the unpredictable weather patterns affecting farming activities.

For instance, several food basket counties are yet to receive optimal rainfall in the last couple of months to kick-start the annual planting season, putting in limbo, the country’s food security in the near term.

Let us look at the frequency of extreme weather effects has also been exacerbated by global warming with hurricanes and even tropical cyclones becoming the norm in many parts of the globe.

Droughts have also become a more routine occurrence while some regions have received excess precipitation.

Africa’s pain

While contributing to the least amount of emissions, I feel, Africa has seen some of the most devastating impacts from climate change.

Gabon’s Ali Bongo and South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa used the recent virtual summit to underscore the impact of climate change on countries on the commitment citing limited resources including financing to combat the climate change woes.

Countries on the continent have nevertheless joined on the global action calls with South Africa, considered the most industrialized country on the continent, outlining plans to cut their emissions from 2025.

The impact of climate change has compounded on woes facing some of the countries on the continent including Mozambique which already faces insecurity concerns leading to the displacement of persons.

Global calls to action are should now be backed by financing to plug the resources needed to contain climate change.

Brazil’s environment minister Ricardo Salles for instance pushed for more financing on climate change combative efforts particularly in developing countries.

The success of climate change programs depends on private public and international partnerships. We have to consistently support the youth and make a change in the world for future generations to benefit from such programs .

Chris Diaz

Director East Africa Business Council and Trustee Brand Africa