Zambia is one of many countries threatened by the effects of climate change. It is estimated that rising temperatures will lead to the loss of millions of plant and wildlife species around the world in the next 50 years. Voice of America English to Africa reporter Sanday Chongo Kabange highlights some of Zambia’s efforts to mitigate the effects of a hotter, drier climate.
A team of researchers has started collecting information on climate change in Zambia. They fear the country might be plunged into the worst disaster it has seen since the AIDS pandemic, so they plan to draw up a national profile that will show how climate change might affect Zambia.
Many countries and non-governmental organizations worldwide are coming up with studies, publications and other materials on the issue.
In Zambia, one such NGO is Energy and Environmental Concerns for Zambia. It is supported by the London-based International Institute for Environment and Development. EECZ is located about 250 kilometers north of Lusaka in the Copperbelt mining town of Kitwe – where it also has an information center at Copperbelt University’s School of Technology in the Department of Chemical Engineering.
The scientists and researchers at the Kitwe NGO are carrying out studies and assessments on “Climate Change and Human Health.”
Dr. George Kasali is a microbiologist and lead researcher for EECZ. He says the three-year assessment study on climate change is focusing on its impact on the health of Zambians – specifically, the connection between temperature increases and the spread of disease. In Zambia, the south is often dry, while the north is susceptible to flooding, “We are assessing the impacts of climate change, [like] droughts and floods on human health. There are diseases (in Zambia) that are sensitive to climatic variability of climatic change. In this case diseases that are sensitive to rainfall, temperature, and these include malaria, diarrhea, dysentery and respiratory diseases.”
Kasali says Zambia’s government is already taking steps to deal with climate change, especially the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources and the Ministry of Energy, “Right now, the minister (Ministry for Environment and Natural resources) is working on a document called the National Adaptation Program of Action to Climate Change. That document, once finalized, will also lay down a strategy on how Zambia should respond in the face of changing climate. The strategies are there so what we are waiting for is the implementation.”
The program of action will help meet the recommendations made by the United Nations Framework Convention of Climate Change. It is encouraging countries to come up with national policies on ways of coping with temperature changes. The United Nations body says 85 per cent of the temperature increases are caused by green house emissions and deforestation.
Kasali sums up by cautioning that accelerated economic and infrastructural development will probably increase the risks of climate change in Zambia. He says clearing forests for construction and increased industrializing will have negative consequences on Zambia’s environment and atmosphere. “Climate risks are definitely a challenge to development in Zambia. They are impacting negatively on our development. Zambia needs to mainstream climate risk reduction in its developmental process because the more developed you become, the more vulnerable you get.”
Former US Vice President and now environmental leader Al Gore states in his recent documentary film entitled “An Inconvenient Truth” that global warming is real and is threatening the well-being of the world. Gore says there is need for the world to take action and protect the globe from the effects of climate change and global warming.
The United Nations has set up a Special Climate Change Fund to finance the research and technology needed to stem the effects of temperature increases in developing countries.
The UN says among the things that developing countries can do to cope with change are switching from coal to gas for energy and improving land management.
But experts say the UN’s climate change fund has done little so far to help poor countries, leaving some African nations like Zambia to come up with their own home-grown solutions, like planting more trees.
The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned last May that the global emission of greenhouse gases, widely blamed for warming temperatures, would continue to rise over the next few decades.
The panel said close to two million more Africans are expected to find themselves without adequate clean water as early as next year. It said that will likely lead to an increase in poverty and pandemics such as malaria and cholera as well as the spread of arid and semi-arid lands, which affects food production.
Asian giants such as India and China are joining the United States and other industrialized countries as major producers of greenhouse gases.
Many experts say Africa's future may lie in its ability to persuade developed countries to take more responsibility.