Kenyans blame human action for worsening climate change

A truck drives into a cloud of smoke produced by burnt industrial waste products at Athi River near the old Mombasa Road. PHOTO | SILA KIPLAGAT

What you need to know:

  • Human influence seen as especially high among people with post-secondary education.

More than a half of Kenyans believe that humans are to blame for the worsening climatic conditions, a report shows.

The 2019 AfroBarometer Experience and Awareness of Climate Change survey shows that 59 percent of Kenyans are of the view that human activities are to blame for the rise in climate change.

“On the other hand, 13 percent link the problem to both human activities and natural processes,” the AfroBarometer report says.

Human influence on climate change is especially high among people with post-secondary education (59 percent) while low among those without formal education (42 percent).

Only 39 percent of Kenyans are aware of climate change and believe it has a negative implication.

The survey covered 45, 823 respondents in 34-African countries between September 2016 and September 2018.

“Overall, in 29 of the 34 surveyed countries, fewer than half of citizens have both heard of climate change and associate it with negative changes in weather patterns.

“We saw above that on average across all countries, 58 percent of citizens have heard of climate change, and of those, about two-thirds (68 percent) understand that human activity plays a part in causing climate change and slightly fewer than two-thirds (63 percent) associate climate change with negative changes in weather patterns,” the report adds.

Gabon (80 percent), Guinea (74 percent) and Tanzania (67 percent) are some of the countries with the highest number of citizens who think human activities are to blame.

“Citizens of Mozambique (21 percent), Niger (29 percent) and Namibia (30 percent) have the least number of residents who believe that climate change is as a result of human activities,” it adds.

More so, it says increased literacy on climate change among African countries will likely motivate preparedness and actions.

“And the findings here suggest that climate change activists have a great deal of work to do to further educate and engage African publics,” it says.

Only 30 percent of Kenyans are literate about climate change. Mauritius (57 percent) has the highest number of literacy while Mozambique has the lowest (12 percent).

“A climate change literate public could put pressure on a government to increase its readiness; on the other hand, an engaged government might actively engage in building climate change literacy to raise support for its efforts and investments, and thus increase societal preparedness,” it says.

Of late, climate change has become more frequent and unpredictable as human activities churns out billions of tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

When asked about what “weather change” meant, 63 percent of the 34-African respondents said the term meant negative change (63 percent), positive change (17 percent), other changes (15 percent) and unaware (5 percent).

“On average, fewer than four in 10 Africans (38 percent) have a basic awareness of the downsides of climate change, for example they are both aware of climate change and understand that it has negative implications,” it says.

However, it shows that men (64 percent) are more aware climate change than women (51 percent).

“On the other hand, more urban residents are aware of climate change unlike those in rural areas at 63 percent and 51 percent respectively,” it says.

Citizens who work in agriculture, fishing, and forestry are somewhat less likely to be aware of climate change than those in other occupations (52 percent versus 59 percent).

Climate change awareness is especially high with internet (74 percent), social media (72 percent), newspapers (72 percent), television (65 percent) and radio (64 percent).

It adds among those who never get news from any of five sources, only 40 percent have heard of climate change.

“But respondents who get news daily from the Internet, social media, and newspapers are substantially more likely to have heard of climate change than those who get daily news from television (65 percent) and radio (64 percent),”it adds.

When asked about severity of extreme weather events, respondents said over past 10 years’ drought have become somewhat much severe (49 percent) while floods have become somewhat less severe (41 percent).

When asked whether climate change had any effect on agricultural activities, 49 percent of the respondents said the situation had gotten worse.

“Only 20 percent of them believe that the situation has gotten better, 17 percent same and 14 percent do not know,” it adds.

By region, three East Africans (63 percent) are almost twice as likely as North Africans (35 percent) to say climate conditions have worsened, the report says.

According to the 2019 Lancet medical journal report, children in Kenya will be most affected by climate change as infectious diseases will rise.

The report says maize has declined by 6.4 percent, 1.5 percent for winter wheat, 1.1 percent for spring wheat and 15 percent for rice in the country since 1960.

World Wildlife Organisation (WWF) data shows the country’s forest cover has dropped 25 percent (824, 115 hectares) between 1990 and 2015. This representing 33,000 forest cover lost per annum.

The hotspot counties include Bomet (Mau), Narok (Mau water tower), Nyandarua (Aberdare), Kwale and Lamu.

In 2018, the government banned logging in all public forests over the rise in illegal logging. The decision was informed by decline in water level in Kenya’s rivers.

The ban has increased the cost of construction as prices of timber have nearly doubled.

This comes as government is targeting to reforest 5.1 million hectares of degraded and deforested landscapes by 2030.

Last year, the government evicted illegal settlers in Nkoben, Ololunga, Ilmotion, Enokishoni, Nkaroni and Sisian on the expansive Mau forest.

AfroBarometer directs a Pan-African, nonpartisan research network that conducts public attitude surveys on democracy, governance, economic conditions, and related issues in African countries.

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