Editor’s note: Martin Muchangi is a program director at Amref Health Africa. The article reflects the author’s opinions and not necessarily the views of CGTN.
There is a Ghanaian proverb that goes: hunger is felt by a slave, and hunger is felt by a king. It’s a simple yet poignant reminder of the impacts of climate change on all of us. While vulnerable populations such as those that rely heavily on rain-fed agriculture, fishing, and livestock farming for their sustenance will be more negatively affected than the wealthy, the bottom line is that ultimately, we will all feel the impact of climate change.
It’s baffling to see climate change deniers in action, misinforming the public and trying to downplay scientific findings that prove that climate change is real. Meanwhile, the harmful effects of global warming threaten to undermine health gains recorded over several decades. These effects include malnutrition, increased levels of communicable and non-communicable diseases and complex emergencies occasioned by natural disasters.
Africa, home to about 17 per cent of the world’s population and where almost half the population lives in poverty, is poised to bear the brunt of climate change – arguably the biggest concern of our time (beyond the current COVID-19 pandemic).
According to the State of the Global Climate 2020 Report global mean temperature in 2020 (at 14.9 degrees Celsius) was one of the three warmest on record, and the rate of temperature increase averaged across Africa was higher than the global mean.
Our continent, which accounts for less than 4 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions and has the least capacity to adapt to the impacts of global warming, will once again pay a steep price for the lack of urgent action towards addressing climate change at a global level.
Changes in temperature and precipitation are already impacting water resources, reducing agricultural production and exacerbating malnutrition on the continent. Drought and flooding have been extensive in many parts of Eastern, Western and Southern Africa, where disaster-related displacements occasioned by extreme weather, conflict and economic shocks saw close to 100 million people suffer from acute food insecurity in 2020. During the same period, it is estimated that 12 per cent of all new displacements globally took place in Eastern Africa and the Horn of Africa.
These are not mere statistics. These are real, human lives that are being affected by our collective failure to act faster to reduce the emission of greenhouse gasses and limit the global temperature increase this century to between 1.5-2 degrees Celsius, as outlined by the 2015 Paris Agreement.
This is happening against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has put global health in a precarious position and shone a spotlight on just how vulnerable we are against nature. Climate change, if left unchecked, will leave us defenceless against future pandemics.
And in Africa, where weak health systems have left the population at a considerable disadvantage, existing gaps in public health systems are likely to widen even further. If adequate measures are not put in place to mitigate and adapt to climate variability and climate change by 2030, up to 118 million poor people will be exposed to drought, floods and extreme heat on the continent.
Even as we focus on pandemic recovery efforts, we cannot afford to ignore the need for long-term climate change mitigation and adaptation measures. These will require sustainable financing to contain the adverse humanitarian, social, and economic costs of climate change and its role in amplifying pandemics.
It is estimated that in the next eight years Africa will need investments of over $3 trillion to effectively implement Nationally Determined Contributions – the climate-related policies, targets and measures that governments aim to employ as their contribution to global climate action.
This is a difficult task, given that majority of countries cannot fully finance their domestic budgets and are facing increasingly widening health financing gaps. Fewer than five African nations have managed to increase their health spending to at least 15 per cent of their national budgets as committed to in the Abuja Declaration of 2001 – a situation compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic.
So, what are the next steps?
First, African leaders must acknowledge that climate change and its impact on health, economic growth and development are real, and our response as a continent must be urgent, inclusive and well-coordinated. They must continue to call for regional and global collaboration and partner support to implement strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and hold the world’s richest countries responsible for their contributions to climate change. This is not the time to talk shop: it is time to act.
Second, as citizens of this planet, we must realize that governments cannot and will not solve the climate crisis alone. This calls for collective responsibility and action towards creating an equitable and prosperous planet for all.
We need to participate in the formation of policies and their implementation at a societal and individual level. We need to task our governments to uphold their commitments to spend more, and better, on mitigation and adaptation measures. These include investment in climate-resilient solutions like green energy, robust disease surveillance, and early warning mechanisms that will benefit the planet and our health systems.
We certainly have a long journey ahead of us, but even the longest journey begins with a single step. We have it within us to make the first step, not just for a better today, but for a brighter, healthier tomorrow.
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Article first published on https://news.cgtn.com/news/2022-03-12/On-the-precipice-Why-Africa-must-act-on-climate-change-now-18jJ6Acyoms/index.html
Thanks for this enlightment.