Western, Coast most affected by climate change, report reveals

Monday, September 23rd, 2019 00:00 |
Devolution CS Eugene Wamalwa addresses the press in a past briefing. Photo/PD/FILE

Western Kenya and the Coast region have experienced the greatest impact of climate change in Kenya, with temperatures rising and rainfall patterns changing dramatically over the last four decades.

In a report obtained from the Kenya Meteorological Department (KMD), the two regions have recorded temperature increase of 2°C and 2.1°C, respectively.

This means they have reached the dreaded threshold of temperature increase set by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of 2°C.

KMD director Stella Aura has expressed concern over rate of temperature rise in the country terming its effects detrimental to food security and other economic activities.

“In recent years, there were more consecutive days with above normal temperatures within the hot months (January, February and March). Additionally, the minimum night time temperatures are rising faster than the daytime temperatures,” she said.

Rainfall has reduced considerably as shown by KMD data for Dagoretti, Voi and Kericho from 1961 to 2016.

Aura points out that, while decreased rainfall is evidence of climate change, some regions record higher amounts of rainfall but within shorter periods of time. 

“The increase is, therefore, not very useful especially for agricultural purposes,” she said.

GDP loss

Aura attributed the temperature rise to deforestation, poor land use, burning of fossil fuels, industrial and ocean pollution and coral bleaching.

Devolution Cabinet Secretary Eugene Wamalwa has noted that 23 of the country’s 47 counties are affected by drought and are relying on relief food.

“The issue is as a result of extreme high temperature due to climate change and global warming,” he said.

As millions of Kenyans continue to face food insecurity, the impact the economy and other general development is getting worse with revelations that the country loses at least two per cent of its GDP due to climate change.

With the country’s 2018 GDP standing at Sh8.8 trillion, this means Sh170 billion is lost annually to climate change.

Environment Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko has noted that 78 to 80 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions come from developed countries, with Africa contributing just four per cent.

“We are suffering the burden of pollution by others. The polluters have a moral, ethical and legal obligation to pay for their emissions,” he said. 

The Ministry of Agriculture has issued a warning that maize production is expected to fall by 11 million bags this year because of inadequate rains.

“Erratic patterns of the 2019 long rains affected early planted crop resulting in water stress, wilting and poor germination in most parts of the country,” the Ministry’s July Crop production bulletin stated.

On deforestation, Kenya is losing its forests at a rate of 12,000 acres annually.

According to the Taskforce Report on Forest Resources Management and Logging Activities in Kenya 2018, the loss of 5,000 hectares of forest was due to illegal logging and encroachment.

Marion Kamau, who also chairs the Greenbelt Movement, says forest ecosystems enhance landscape resilience to climate change.

“Forests are also known to be among the most effective sinks of greenhouse gases, which cause climate change, and hence important in contributing to climate change mitigation,” Kamau said.

Kenya’s closed canopy forest cover currently stands at about two per cent of the total land area, compared to the African average of 9.3 per cent and a world average of 21.4 per cent.

Food security

“The depletion has the potential to roll back strides towards the attainment of Vision 2030 and the government’s Big Four Agenda of food and nutritional security, affordable and decent housing, universal healthcare and manufacturing, if it is not urgently addressed,” she added.

Globally, scientists are warning that changing the average temperature of an entire planet, even if it’s just by a few degrees, will have devastating effect on food security, health, wild and marine life.

Right now, the world is warmer than it was during pre-industrial days and it is linked to the rising levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, caused by human activities.

As Kenya battles to reduce the impact of human activities on the environment, visitors to national parks, beaches, forests and conservation areas will not be allowed to carry disposable plates, cups, straws, spoons, forks and water bottles, which are considered major environmental pollutants.

According to UN Environment, over 20,000 plastic bottles are sold every second translating to 480 billion annually.

The agency indicates that at least eight million tonnes of plastics ends up in oceans with a warning that by 2050, there will be more plastics in oceans than fish.

Other major causes of pollution include carbon emissions from motor vehicles, industries, burning fossil fuels and coal and electricity generation.

Nairobi River, which snakes through the capital, is an eyesore as sewer and industrial waste takes over. 

Kenya banned cars using the most sulphurous fuels and limited second hand cars importation to eight years but pollution is made worse by smoke from garbage/tyres fires and use of dirty source of energy.

On fossil fuels and coal burning, Kenya environmentalists scored big when the National Environment Tribunal in June cancelled the licence issued to Amu Power Company Ltd for setting up a coal plant.

The tribunal said that the National Environment Management Authority (Nema) issued the environmental impact assessment licence to Amu Power without following the law.

The Sh200 billion plant was to be constructed in Lamu but environment activists vehemently opposed it.

To prevent global temperature rise, the United Nations signed the Paris Agreement, an international treaty designed to keep the average global temperature “well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels”.

The 144 countries participating in the 2016 Paris Agreement announced that the world should limit the global increase in this century to 1.5°C, a stricter limit than the former goal of a 2°C increase.

But Tobiko points that it won’t be possible to hold the global temperature rise below the 1.5°C limit unless standing forests are maintained, degraded areas are allowed to recover, conversion of forests into other land uses halted, wetlands restored and forest cover expanded.

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