Opinion and Analysis
Climate change revving up poverty cycle
Posted Thursday, November 24 2011 at 23:20
These include food security, human health, frequent exposure to humanitarian crises, water availability, and destruction of infrastructure. Analyses of these channels are critical in informing implementation of appropriate adaptation and mitigation policies for climate change.
First, agriculture constitutes the backbone of most African economies.
Pointedly, even without climate change most countries in Africa are considered food insecure.
Climate change is worsening the situation by affecting food production through causing further changes in soil moisture and soil fertility and alteration of agro-ecological precipitation patterns.
For example the recent years’ unprecedented recurrence in drought spells, variations in onset of long rains and unexpected rains during harvest times. These affect food production and availability.
On the other hand, food price hikes due to supply shortage occasioned by climate change is hampering sufficient food access for poor non-farmers who are depended on markets for their food supplies.
Second, in general prevalence of vector borne diseases such as malaria and dengue are expected to expand to cover new areas in the subtropics zones that will become warmer. In addition extreme temperature-related mortalities in summers and winters are becoming common place.
Third, climate change related stresses and shocks such as droughts, floods and storms are often terrible experiences for those affected. This is because they result into loss of life, destruction of livelihoods and displacement of large masses of people.
Critically climate shocks also erode long-term opportunities for human development and in the process undermine economic productivity and weaken human capital.
Fourth, research shows that in Africa an estimated 25 per cent of the population is experiencing water stress.
This means that aspects such as changing run-off patterns, receding water table levels and spill-over from raising sea levels are interacting with existing ecological stresses to make water access and availability a major problem. This directly affects flows of water for consumption, irrigation and human settlements.
Fifth, in countries such as the United States, Australia and Thailand latest evidence suggests that recent cyclones and flooding have had major adverse impacts physical assets.
They inevitably destroy infrastructure thereby compromising production, marketing and distribution. Receding water levels reduce hydro-electricity production in countries like Kenya, thus negatively impacting economic growth.
In conclusion, unlike economic shocks that affect growth or inflation, many of the human development impacts such as lost opportunities for health and education, diminished productive potential, loss of vital ecological systems, are permanent.
Mr Aseka teaches at Moi university. He is also an anti-poverty policy specialist