NOT KNOWING IS NO LONGER AN EXCUSE
I remember back in primary school during one of our Environmental Science lessons; my teacher had asked what global warming was. Out of a class of about 40 students, I was the only one with a hand up. My teacher was so impressed with my answer which demonstrated knowledge about the phenomena of increasing global temperatures and the green house gas effect that he gave me a firm handshake. Looking back at that moment, I realise how the subject of climate change is not something that a lot of people would consider a normal table talk issue in homes with their families or in whatever circles they belong to.
Even after more than a decade from that experience in primary school, I continue to witness the misunderstanding of climate change as an issue only reserved for particular people in academics and perhaps farmers concerned about the next rains. That inherently leads to a problem of passive communities with regards to climate change and environmental protection.
For easier visualisation, think about the last time we had good rains in Zimbabwe or how often you felt the weather conditions where a bit odd for that particular season or month. Climate studies conducted by scientists agree that there has been a drastic change in the average expected weather conditions world over. That is precisely how we can describe climate change and according to NASA, 97% of scientists agree that it is human induced.
Arctic ice is melting, leading to rising seas levels which inundates low lying areas and parts of small islands.The Sub Saharan region has been experiencing frequent and prolonged dry spells that have heavily affected the agricultural sector of national economies, livelihoods and intensified water scarcity. The occurrence of natural disasters such as floods, hurricanes are raging across all continents taking lives and destroying everything in their paths. These are some of the many effects that demonstrate how multifaceted the climate crisis is.
Science has been warning about the devastating impacts of upsetting the global climate system. Since the first industrial revolution, carbon emissions have continued to rise at an alarming rate.
Upsetting the natural components of the atmosphere has lead to an increase in the concentration of green house gases such as carbon that trap heat radiated from the earth’s surface preventing it from going back into space hence the increase in global temperatures. Globally, the primary sources of green house gas emissions are electricity and heating, agriculture, transport and manufacturing. Most of these emissions come from a relatively small amount of countries such as China, the United States, Russia and other nations making up the European Union. When it comes to the impacts of climate change however, we all bear the burden; some more than others particularly poor communities in the developing world who contribute the least carbon yet suffer the most.
As part of efforts to address the challenge, there have been several international conventions to coordinate actions by all countries especially in reducing carbon emission through phasing out fossil fuels and adopting clean, green energy such as solar and wind. These agreements have played a pivotal role in ensuring that all countries act in one accord and most importantly set precedence to individual countries in policy formulation in line with global targets. One of the important tools is education, in order to increase climate literacy of grassroots communities and empower them to meaningfully take part in solution formulation.
It will aid in changing attitudes and behaviours as well as equipping communities with skills to address impacts and adapt to changes. Young people in particular need to take an active role in climate action as they stand to inherit an uninhabitable environment. We can no longer use the excuse of not knowing for not doing anything about climate change !