15 May 2006
The failure of rich nations to tackle the problem of global warming will have dire consequences on millions of people around the world especially the very poor. Africa, in particular will bear the brunt of this disaster with 182 millions forecast to die by the turn of the century from diseases linked to global warming. The Global Advocacy Team of the London-based Christian Aid said in its report released May 15th.
The report titled, ‘Global warming, unnatural disasters and the world’s poor’ warned that average global temperatures could rise by between 1.5 and 6 degrees centigrades and sea levels between 15cm and 95 cm by 2100. It said that “poor countries are especially vulnerable to climate related changes and disasters because”: they are heavily reliant on natural resource based economic activity and a small number of economic sectors. It points out that a large number of people (in poor countries that usually have a low institutional capacity to cope with disasters) are living in disaster prone zones (eg low-lying and coastal areas and small island states). These people lack economic resources for disaster preparedness and rehabilitation and they usually have poor infrastructure (eg poor housing, drinking water supply and communications), added the report.
Christian Aid puts the blame of global warming on the doorstep of rich nations. “The historical responsibility for global warming is very clear. It is the rich, northern nations which have been responsible for the great majority of fossil fuel use over the last two hundred years. Furthermore, their current wealth has been created on the back of that fossil fuel use, and on the free use of the global atmosphere as a dumping ground for the resulting greenhouse gases.” Says Christian Aid. “20% of the world’s population living in industrialized nations are responsible for some 80% of the world’s emissions.” “The US with a population of 300million produces as much carbon dioxide as 135 developing countries with a combined population of 3 billion.” Added the report.
The irony is that the US has refused to sign the Kyoto protocol that was put in place to control the emissions of green house gases. The Kyoto protocol obliges rich nations to cut greenhouse gases by at least 5.2% below the 1990 level by 2012. China (another fast growing nation) has followed the American example and refused to sign the protocol. The World bank and other institutions involved in development issues recognize the importance of doing something about global warming. “The last G8 pushed African development but didn’t focus on the impact of climate change on Africa. We need to catch up on our understanding of that.” Said Warren Evans of the World bank.
A related development on the African continent to corroborate the concerns of Christian Aid has to do with the shrinking of lake Chad. This is a giant lake with four African countries (Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger) bordering it. Lake Chad has receded to less than 20% of its former volume and global warming is partly to blame. Satellite photos reveal that 40 years ago, the area covered by the water of lake Chad was 15,000 sq. miles. Today it is 500 sq. miles and is falling. The potential for conflict over the dwindling water resources are real. The lake Chad example is a dress rehearsal of what awaits the poor people of our world tomorrow.
Njei Moses Timah