“Most people who have heard of El Nino have gone hysterical” These were remarks made by the Green Belt Movement chairperson, Ms. Wanjira Mathai, at a panel discussion during the launch of Safaricom Fourth Annual Sustainability Report. Although (to many people) this El Nino story could appear as a hoax from weather man, the devastating effects it can bring if it actually happens are enough to scare Kenyans. Dykes have been erected, poorly constructed houses have been renovated, people are moving to the higher grounds and drainage systems reconstructed to mitigate the effects that could come about as a result of this rain.
The mere mention of the term El Nino brings bad memories to Kenyans who were affected by the heavy downpour around 1997 and 1998. That kind of rain has not been experienced since then. There are erratic rains nowadays, the month of July is not as cold as it used to be, and people who used to reap from their farms twice a year are now reaping once. Scientists have predicted that the uncertainty in weather patterns is as a result of climate change. Climate change is not an issue that affects Kenya only; it is a global concern that is capable of causing devastating effects. At the aforementioned launch, there was an extensive discussion on climate change, its causes, effects and the appropriate control measures. Main focus was Climate change in Kenya.
Causes of climate change
a) Fuel consumption
Many Kenyans prefer using vehicles to travel, no matter how short the distance is. The transport business is booming where a majority of Kenyans travel to work on these vehicles. The middle and upper class Kenyans have bought vehicles to ease their movement. Furthermore, there are motorcycles in most parts of the country which offer transportation services. This in turn translates to the hectic traffic jams on the Kenyan roads especially getting into and out of town. Take Mombasa road for example where people spend almost four hours in traffic. On the other hand, most companies and organizations have back-generators that in case of a black out. The common factor in all the above is that they all require fuel to function. Burning this fuel gives catastrophic emissions that lead to climate change.
b) Air conditioning systems
The real estate and construction industries are also experiencing booming businesses. With increased population, there will be increased need for housing services and office space. Due to the decreased space for construction, there is need to construct flats and skyscrapers. These buildings that soar high require air conditioning systems that produce fugitive emissions which lead to climate change.
c) Electricity consumption
Few operations can actually be executed without electricity here in Kenya and the world over. Many organizations are dependent on electricity to run their activities. While this form of energy is vital and leads to faster means production, it has its side effects one of which is its contribution to climate change.
d) Air travel
This falls under both fuel consumption and air conditioning systems. For local and international travels, there are an increased number of people who prefer air travel. This means of transport is a great contributing factor to climate change.
e) Improper disposal of e-waste
E-waste refers to discarded electronic devices and appliances. Large amounts of E-waste are known to accumulate in many institutions such as government offices and institutions of higher learning. This could be attributed to the dynamic growth in technology where many devices and appliances rapidly become obsolete. Where they are not properly disposed or recycled, they lead to the harmful effects of climate change.
EFFECTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE
a) Extinction of wildlife
Kenya boasts of wildlife that serves as a major tourist attraction thus earning the country revenue. Climate change puts this heritage at risk of extinction thus loss of one of the leading foreign income earner.
b) Drought and its devastating results
Kenya was faced by a serious drought issue that led to Kenyans joining hands to save their fellow Kenyans ravaged by hunger in 2011. The Kenyans for Kenya Initiative portrayed what Kenya would be like in the face of a serious drought. Human beings and animals died. If nothing is done about climate change, such a scenario will not come as a surprise.
c) High temperatures
Kenya has enjoyed a relatively good climate where it is not too cold or too hot. The tropical climate attracts people from countries that rarely enjoy sunlight. If climate change is persistent, Kenya is at risk of experiencing outrageously high temperatures that could cause skin-related disease from the ultra-violet sun rays.
d) Shifting of seasons
The traditional long and short rains have now become very erratic and unpredictable. The cold season was recently felt late into October and the weather man has forecasted the El Nino. All these could be attributed to climate change.
It’s not enough to plant trees. Planting the right trees and flowers matters.
Inculcate the culture of caring for the environment in the young generation so that they grow up aware of the harmful nature of climate change. As they say, it’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks, thus sensitizing the older generation to change would be somewhat pointless.
Consider using means of transport that are environment-friendly. If possible, leaving the car at home to reduce the amount of emissions from that encourage climate change.