Monday, November 9, 2015

Climate Change and Poverty

"There has never been a more important time to address rural poverty in developing countries. It looks likely that global food security and climate change will be among the key issues of the 21st century. As agricultural producers and custodians of a large share of the world's natural resources, poor rural people have key roles to play, contributing not only to global food security and economic growth, but also to climate change mitigation efforts." – Kanayo Nwanze, President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development
On November 8 2015, The World Bank has released a new report titled, "Shock Waves - Managing the Impacts of Climate Change on Poverty", and indeed it sends 'shock waves'. But can it be said that this is totally new news? NO! The impact of climate change on poverty across the globe is something that is very well documented.

The World Bank report, "Shock Waves - Managing the Impacts of Climate Change on Poverty" shows that climate change is an acute threat to poorer people across the world. And of course the usual places get a mention, – Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia – the poorest regions of the world. The poorest regions of the world will be hit the hardest. The new report states that climate change has the power to push more than 100 million people back into poverty over the next fifteen years, i.e., by 2030! This is what hits me hard, shakes me badly and indeed send the 'shock waves' through my body.

The world has been fighting with poverty and climate change. It is arguably the two biggest issues confronting the world now. How do we end poverty or reduce it significantly and at also address climate change. These two issues of poverty and climate change cannot be addressed exclusive of each other. Not that climate change is that which will make people poor. No. There has been many poor people and countries even before climate change became a very topical issue engaging the minds of all who care. But climate change has the potential to worsen an already bad situation.

So how will climate change affect poverty reduction? Let's consider two critical ones. The world bank study points out that:
  • Without action, climate change would likely spark higher agricultural prices and could threaten food security in poorer regions such as Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Take most of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa, almost all have their economies heavily dependent on agriculture. So when the impacts of climate change tend to be negative on agriculture, it means bad news for source of income, food security, nutrition, jobs, livelihoods and foreign exchange. "Shock Waves - Managing the Impacts of Climate Change on Poverty" estimate that by 2030, crop yield losses could mean that food prices would be 12% higher on average in Sub-Saharan Africa. This is not something to fold the arms and watch. Take any typical poor household in Kenya, Ghana, Ethiopia, Lesotho, they may already be spending more than half of their income on food, not to think about education, clothing, healthcare, transportation, rent, utilities, etc. Such families are already at their breaking point and cannot afford to pay more for food. So, it is easy to understand that if nothing is done, most of Sub-Saharan Africa is staring malnutrition in the face. Malnutrition is coming to us and although we refuse to welcome him, he will come nonetheless, unless serious action is taken. 
  • Climate change also will magnify many threats to health, as poor people are more susceptible to climate-related diseases such as malaria and diarrhea. At the global level, warming of 2-3°C could increase the number of people at risk for malaria by up to 5%, or more than 150 million more people affected. Diarrhea would be more prevalent, and increased water scarcity would have an effect on water quality and hygiene. This is not good news at all. The result would be an estimated 48,000 additional deaths among children under the age of 15 resulting from diarrheal illness by 2030. Juxtapose this on a health system that is already on its knees in most of Sub-Saharan Africa. this is not good news.
The new report points out a very important fact, "poverty reduction is not a one-way street. Many people exit or fall back into poverty each year ." So, the work is not a simple one. It is not one that starts today and ends tomorrow, just like that. It is not a linear equation but a very complicated multi-lateral equation that demands more minds and great effort. The world needs to proceed with high urgency. The poorer a people are, the lower their adaptive capacity and the more vulnerable they are to the negative effects of climate change. And the impacts of climate change are expected to increase, judging from the trajectory the world is moving in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.

As the world meets in Paris this December 2015, I sincerely hope and pray that a good deal will come out of the meeting. COP 21 should be a turning point. As the world transitions from Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), may Paris bring the world something sustainable.

Less argument in Paris.

“Men argue. Nature acts.” ― Voltaire

Friday, November 6, 2015

Watching the USA on Climate Change

“This is not some distant problem of the future. This is a problem that is affecting Americans right now. Whether it means increased flooding, greater vulnerability to drought, more severe wildfires — all these things are having an impact on Americans as we speak.” — U.S. President Barack Obama, interview with Al Roker, May 6, 2014

The United States of America (USA) plays and will continue to play a major role in the world as far as I can see. Not that I can really see very far, but I can smell very far. My sense of smell seem sharper than my sight. So I tend to 'see' more with my nose. And as far as my big nose can see, USA will play a major role in the world's affairs for such a long time.

Which issue concerns the everyone in the world more than the issues of climate change? Climate Change demands the attention and active involvement of all who genuinely believe they are big boys/girls in the house. They should stand and be counted. As the eldest child in a family where both Mum and Dad have passed on, I know and appreciate what it means to rise to the occasion; to stand and be counted. I acknowledge my position that destiny has bestowed on me. I accept the responsibility on me and live up to it. This is what I am watching the USA and hoping to see. Let USA stand well on climate issues.

In calling the big boys when it comes to emission of greenhouse gases, one cannot skip USA. If any meaningful agreement on reducing emission levels can be reached at Paris, the role of USA is extremely important. President Barack Obama, speaking at the League of Conservation Voters Capital Dinner, June 25, 2014, said: “Today, about 40 percent of America’s carbon pollution comes from our power plants. There are no federal limits to the amount those plants can pump into the air. None. We limit the amount of toxic chemicals like mercury, and sulfur, and arsenic in our air and water, but power plants can dump as much carbon pollution into our atmosphere as they want. It’s not smart, it’s not right, it’s not safe, and I determined it needs to stop.” — U.S. President Barack Obama, League of Conservation Voters Capital Dinner, June 25, 2014.

There has been good development in recent years on talks on emission reduction in which USA has been a major player. USA has tried to bring other big emitters into discussions. Now is the time for Mr Obama to rally his country to pull the world along a path for a positive action. Mr Obama, I know you know. I know you know it is possible to get seemingly impossible things done. You said this, Mr President: “Part of what’s unique about climate change, though, is the nature of some of the opposition to action.  It’s pretty rare that you’ll encounter somebody who says the problem you’re trying to solve simply doesn’t exist.  When President Kennedy set us on a course for the moon, there were a number of people who made a serious case that it wouldn’t be worth it; it was going to be too expensive, it was going to be too hard, it would take too long.  But nobody ignored the science.  I don’t remember anybody saying that the moon wasn’t there or that it was made of cheese.” — U.S. President Barack Obama, UC Irvine Commencement Address, June 14, 2014

It is sad to note that Mr Obama’s flagship climate policy, the American Clean Energy and Security Act, went down to defeat in 2009 as a result of Congressional opposition. That was in 2009 and a lot of water has passed under the Bridge; not Jose's Stamford Bridge. Mr Obama is coming to the end of his term and as some people claim he has been on legacy hunting, I urge him to hunt for a climate change legacy that the whole world will remember him for.

The US congress must support Mr Obama to rally the nation together and lead the world in reaching a good deal in Paris. This, my respected congressmen, you owe to yourself, your children and your children;s children. Please, this should not be about, Democrats and Republicans thinking of how to block that and delay this because it is coming from here and not there. Live above this. This is a matter of the world and the respect for USA must be put to good use.

I call on AMERICA.

“When Americans are called on to innovate, that’s what we do — whether it’s making more fuel-efficient cars or more fuel-efficient appliances, or making sure that we are putting in place the kinds of equipment that prevents harm to the ozone layer and eliminates acid rain.  At every one of these steps, there have been folks who have said it can’t be done.  There have been naysayers who said this is going to destroy jobs and destroy industry. And it doesn’t happen because once we have a clear target to meet, we typically meet it. And we find the best ways to do it.” — U.S. President Barack Obama, conference call with public health groups, June 2, 2014

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Something good from Paris 2015

I have only passed through Paris once, on transit. So all I have from Paris is views of Charles de Gaulle Airport. So whilst waiting at Charles de Gaulle Airport, I sent a message to my wife, Juliet: "Ju, I'm in Paris now". Then this conversation ensued:
Ju: "Bring me something from Paris"
Benji: What do you want from Paris?
Ju: "I just want something good from Paris"

Now Paris has become so regular in my thinking. From 30 November to 11 December, governments of more than 190 nations will gather in Paris to discuss a possible new global agreement on climate change. This makes Paris very important to me as a climate change researcher. This meeting in Paris is seeking to do two main interlinked issues: reducing global greenhouse gas emissions and thus avoiding the threat of dangerous climate change.

In just about 5 years, the world's current commitments on greenhouse gas emissions will run out. Will the meeting at Paris succeed in getting a new and improved agreement on greenhouse gas emissions post 2020? How much should the world agree to cut down on Greenhouse Gas Emissions? What kind of agreement? Will it be an agreement that goes beyond the cameras?

It is estimated that a temperature rise of 2 degrees celsius  above pre-industrial levels will make the world cross a critical threshold beyond which global warming becomes catastrophic and irreversible. The current trend is that the world's emissions are heading for a rise of about 5 degrees celsius. There is every cause concern for any serious-minded person who thinks about this earth

I am not going to Paris for this very important meeting so I have a request for those going to Paris. My dear colleagues going to Paris, I believe you know you carry the aspirations of the whole world with you. The world is looking up to you to get a good deal for us all. You are not doing some people somewhere a favour. You will be helping yourself today, your children and your children's children.

As I was told, I also tell you, "I just want something good from Paris"

Monday, February 9, 2015

Why Dedicating Land to Bioenergy Won't Curb Climate Change

This is worth reading!

I could not agree more. As someone that has worked on how vast stretches of land are being aquired by multinationals in Ghana to produce biofuels, I wish I could scream this more!

A new WRI working paper recommends against dedicating land to produce bioenergy. This is a very worrying trend which is pushing peasant farmers out of the little land they are farming on just to feed themselves and their families.

Read more at: Why Dedicating Land to Bioenergy Won't Curb Climate Change