Climate change

The world is warming at a faster rate than expected, causing damage to critical species, habitats and ecosystems and disrupting food production systems. The poorest and most vulnerable people are experiencing the worst of the impacts. Their high dependence on natural resources, sun Accra 2009their vulnerability to small environmental changes, their location in marginal and vulnerable environments, and their lack of capacity to adapt mean climate change is already making their lives and livelihoods much more difficult.

Developed countries have historically been the worst offenders in the climate crisis. Yet they resist taking the radical action that’s needed to slow global warming because they fear their economies will stagnate or shrink.

Radical action is needed now. Without it, we may reach dangerous levels of global temperature increases with catastrophic and irreversible consequences for species and ecosystems and for the lives and livelihoods of billions of people, the majority of whom are poor.

What is climate change? Large scale changes in the earth’s weather and temperatures that persist for a long time – 10 years or more – are what we call climate change. There has always been natural change, but this has been accelerated by human activities. The rate of temperature increase during the 150 years since the Industrial revolution has been extremely high compared with climate change patterns throughout Earth’s history. The average temperature increase during the last century was close to 1°C. Of the 10 warmest years on record, 9 of them have happened since the year 2000. Our activities on earth are obviously having an impact. We have produced a booklet to help you, especially children, to understand what climate change is. Anyone who doesn’t know what it is may find it helpful. You can download it here: climate-change-what-is-it

CircleWhat has accelerated the natural changes? Industrialisation, agriculture and fossil fuel burning (e.g. petrol in cars or for heating homes in cold countries) have pumped vast quantities of greenhouse gases, especially
carbon dioxide, but also methane and nitrous oxides, into the air. The gases have built up in the atmosphere and act like a blanket, trapping the sun’s heat and reflecting it back to earth. This is called the greenhouse effect and results in the Earth’s temperature rising. Deforestation exacerbates the process because trees naturally absorb carbon dioxide and emit oxygen. When they’re cut down, they no longer absorb carbon dioxide and, to compound this, they release that which they’ve stored up when they’re burned or left to rot.

Forest cleared for yam production4
Forest cut and burned to make way for yam farming

If we can keep average global temperatures to no more than 2oC above pre-industrial levels, then maybe we can stop the worst from happening. A global temperature rise of 2-3oC is already likely over the next 50 years, and more than 5 or 6oC during this century if emissions continue to increase. This is extremely worrying. We may be able to cope with temperature rises of less than 2oC if enough support is given to poor communities to adapt to the changes. Even with this small and now inevitable temperature rise, hundreds of millions of people will face increased water stress. An increase of more than 2oC will endanger the lives of millions more as crop yields decline, weather becomes more chaotic and dangerous, forests and animals die, lands become unproductive, and people suffer worsened food and water insecurity. The likelihood of conflict, migration, and disease will also increase, further endangering lives.

We have produced a booklet, particularly for children, to give some ideas of ways we can all act at household, farm and community levels to reduce our damaging impacts on the environment, and also to help vulnerable people adapt to climate change impacts. The ideas are useful for all of us to try out, so have a look at the booklet here: climate-change-actions

Yam production savannah 2

Read about the impacts


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