References to climate change is all around us: in newspapers, on the radio, on TV, in conversations with friends. These references become more prevalent every time there is an unexpected weather phenomenon, like the heavy downpours on Independence Day this year. But once those weather events subsides, we stop talking about it and continue with our daily lives until the next time. One thing is for sure though, going forward, our lives and that of our children will never be the same as we’re used to. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns that extreme weather events will become more frequent.
But what is climate change? Global climate change is driven primarily by the rise of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere. These gasses are the result of the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation and the conversion of undeveloped land to agriculture. Once these gasses are released into the atmosphere, they absorb heat emitted from the earth’s surface and so heat the atmosphere. The result of this phenomenon is that the earth is now warmer than at any time during the past thousand years and this is evidenced in the retreat of glaciers everywhere, rising temperatures, increased number of storms and a constant rate of sea level rise. The current level of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere is the highest it has been in the past 650,000 years.
The IPCC has also reported that globally each of the last three decades was increasingly warmer than any preceding decade since 1850. In the northern hemisphere 1983-2012 was possibly the warmest 30-year period of the last 1400 years. There are reports that May 2014 was the hottest globally since records began in 1880.
The reality is that the dangers of climate change has moved from being a distant threat to present-day danger, with none of us left unscathed. It is very important that CO2 levels in the atmosphere stabilize and then start to drop significantly by 2100 – and essentially we have a few decades from now to come to grips with CO2 emissions and haul them back down to levels of previous centuries. And to achieve this goal, we need to use the next 35 years to replace most fossil fuels with renewables. Realistically this is nearly an impossible goal to achieve, especially in a fast developing country like Ghana.
While the IPCC has plotted out a number of scenarios on what is necessary to reduce the carbon emissions and the consequences of failure, conspiracy theorists continue to cry foul and politicians pay scant attention. In Ghana we are very lucky though. Both President John Dramani Mahama and some of his government have spoken about the consequences of climate change; while Former President Kufuor is an UN Climate Change Envoy.
But the questions we have to ask ourselves are: How can we survive without learning to adapt to climate change and its consequences? And why are we not actively talking about climate change adaptation?
The impacts of climate change are wide reaching. Erratic temperatures and rainfall can affect our farms, crops and our livelihoods directly. Not only are floods and drought a risk, but also complementary problems such as pests that flourish in adverse weather. These unpredictable changes affect yields and quality, lead to increased production costs, which in turn leads to drastic reductions of income, and higher food prices. Most vulnerable are the poor households, but these factors will eventually affect us all in one way or the other.
Our national parks, such as Mole, Kakum and Shai Hills, are also affected by climate change. These parks are challenged by changes in climate and other forms of broad-scale changes (e.g. land use changes, pollution and invasive species) that operate beyond administrative boundaries and in some instances are occurring at especially rapid rates. The continued ecosystem damage creates havoc, pushing more species past their extreme limits, as one species after another slammed up against ecological limits.
About the LCA Ghana: The LCA Ghana was established in collaboration with the Ghana Ministry of Lands and Forestry with support of business leaders, particularly Gold Fields Ghana. The organisation aims to develop the natural capital of the Shai Hills Resource Reserve by preserving the biodiversity, landscape and culture of future generations.