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Letters

Climate Change: Take urgent steps in Kenya

A maize plantation
A maize plantation. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Climate change is the catch-all term for the shift in weather phenomena associated with an increase in global average temperatures over an extended period, usually decades or longer.

Addressing climate change is one of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and it presents the single biggest threat to sustainable development.

Greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise, and are now more than 50 percent higher than their 1990 level. Global warming is causing long-lasting changes which threaten irreversible consequences. From 1880 to 2012, average global temperature increased by 0.85°C; oceans have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished and sea level has risen and from 1901 to 2010 by 19cm while oceans are expanding; global emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) have increased by almost 50 percent since 1990; and the climate change related catastrophes require an investment of $6 billion annually in risk management alone.

The evidence of climate change in Kenya is unmistakable. Across the country, rainfalls have become irregular and unpredictable. Extreme and harsh weather is now a norm. More specifically, since the early 1960s the minimum temperature has risen by 0.7 to 2.0 o C and the maximum by 0.2 to 1.3 o C. Droughts have become more frequent during the long rainy season and severe floods during the short rains. The adverse impacts of climate change are compounded by activities such as pollution, illegal encroachments and settlements, logging and livestock grazing, which further aggravate deforestation and land degradation. Forest cover in Kenya has fallen from 12percent in the 1960s to less than 2 percentat present diminishing the ability of the country’s five main Water Towers to act as water catchments for major rivers and lakes, which are the main sources of water for daily consumption. Only 17 percent of the country’s land mass is arable but due to climate change and other human factors, desertification is on the increase threatening the attainment of Vision 2030. The arid and semi-arid areas are particularly hard hit by these climate hazards but counties such as Meru have recorded upto 14 dried up rivers over the last 6 months. This will impact on the people’s livelihoods, food and water. Adverse effects of climate change include extreme events, health impacts, food insecurity, livelihood insecurity, migration, water insecurity, cultural identity, and other risks. In 2010, Kenya developed a National Climate Change Response Strategy (NCCRS) followed by a National Climate Change Action Plan (NCCAP) in 2012. However, the focus of initiatives has been at the national level, there is need to mainstream climate change into county level activities through: strengthening resilience and adaptive capacity to climate-related hazards and natural disasters; integrating climate change measures into national policies, strategies and plans; improving education and awareness among individuals and institutional; and raising capacity for effective climate change-related planning and management including focusing on women, youth and local and marginalized communities.

Collectively, the three post-2015 agendas for action – the Paris Agreement, SDGs and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction provide the foundation for sustainable, low-carbon and resilient development under a changing climate. Strengthening community-level resilience requires remedies to the the underlying causes of vulnerability in addition to mitigation and adaptation strategies. Adaptation refers to adjustments in ecological, social, or economic systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli and their effects or impacts and it can be in four ways: ecosystem-based adaptation; knowledge, analysis and networking; adaptation financing; and adaptation policy and planning.

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Mitigation involves attempts to slow the process of global climate change, usually by lowering the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Planting trees that absorb CO2 from the air is one such strategy. Reduction of the amount of greenhouse gases put into the atmosphere can also be achieved through use of energy sources that don’t release greenhouse gases such as fuel efficiency in vehicles, hydrogen fuel cells, solar power, tidal energy, geothermal and wind power, use of carbon sinks, carbon credits, and taxation measures. Thus, mitigation measures will need to target the following sectors: energy, transport, construction, agriculture, forestry, environment and waste management.

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