Ghana is hosting a United Nations conference on climate change, where environmental policy leaders from around the world are discussing solutions to global warming. While the conference delegates debated the future of international environmental policy, activists in Ghana described the effects of climate change locally. Brent Latham has more from our West Africa bureau in Dakar.
Delegates at the U.N. climate change conference in Accra hoped to move a step closer this week towards an agreement to replace the dated Kyoto accord. Even as they worked, environmental activists in Ghana say the country is already feeling the effects of global warming.
Flooding, drought, and persistent bushfires are some of the results felt in recent years in Ghana from the change in global climate, says Agustus Asamoah, research manager at the Ghana Wildlife Society.
"Ghana being a tropical country, the effect of climate change can be twofold," he said. "It can result in prolonged droughts and erratic rainfall patterns, in which case there can be years of too much rain, too much rain than expected, or less than expected in certain parts of the country. As happened in the northern part of the country last year, we had so much rain, and flooding that had not been experienced in decades."
Asamoah says precise studies have not been carried out to link climate change to decreases in wildlife in Ghana, but his research shows a correlation between fluctuating coastal water levels associated with unusual levels of rainfall, and a recent decrease in migratory bird populations.
Other Ghanaian environmentalists fear that Ghana is not only a victim of global warming, but also contributing to the problem through excessive harvesting of its once vast tropical forest. Ghana is losing its forests more quickly than they can be replaced, says George Ahadzie, director of the Accra-based Green Earth Organization.
"The problem with deforestation is largely to blame on the government," he said. "That is, the government is not committed to some of the basic rules that it, itself has put in place to regulate or to ensure that forest is conserved. One is the issue that the government is not able to control what we call the annual allocation of companies in timber processing. So because government can not monitor, people are always cutting beyond what we call the annual allowable cut."
Ghana forests are being cut at a rate of nearly two percent annually. Only one quarter of the original forest remains.
Developing countries like Ghana are home to the vast majority of the world's remaining tropical forests. Those forests play a central role in removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, helping to alleviate global warming, and making the avoidance of further deforestation a principal goal of environmental policy makers worldwide.