Demystifying climate change

Climate change has always struck me as a western problem. I was convinced that it would be a long while before it would catch up to this other part of the world. However, it has become hard to ignore the consistent changes in weather patterns and the adverse effects this has had on sectors like agriculture.

Martha Mwiza Birungi

A lot of research has been conducted on this issue yet not everyone is fully aware of what is at stake. For the most part, this is as a result of the way the climate change narrative is relayed.

As a biology major, climate change appeared in my course work throughout university and when it did, it was almost always affiliated with agriculture. The same applied to the training I attended on climate change in April this year.

However, my most recent encounter with climate change Guru , Sir David King, is what has closed the loop with regards to what climate change really is and why we ought to be aware and contribute to reducing its effects.

The lecture started off by explaining where it all began. About a century ago when mankind discovered fossil fuels. A discovery that in a literal sense fueled revolutions that created the world we know today.

This discovery also gave way to development that authorized the cutting down of trees to construct roads and other various forms of infrastructure. All this was done at the expense of our natural environment which has led us to where we are today.

In a nutshell, climate change is a result of the accumulation of green gases that are released when fossil fuels are burnt. In simpler terms these accumulated gases serve as a blanket that traps heat from the sun that is otherwise reflected, in the earth’s atmosphere.

As a result, a cascade of events is set off. First, the abnormally high temperature removes the protective layer off of the snow on the arctic sea exposing the transparent layer that is more susceptible to melting.

This is then followed by snow melting which leads to rising sea levels. This too poses two major challenges; one, sea levels are higher than they should be, therefore countries or cities situated on low altitudes risk getting flooded. Two, this rise in sea levels gives way to irregular wind patterns that eventually spill over onto the mainland in form of tropical cyclones.

For those of us living in landlocked countries and on high altitudes, it is easy to assume that this doesn’t affect us. Well, not really. This issue affects every country on earth indiscriminately. The only difference is to what extent these changes affect any given region and this is often determined by the geographical location.

In Rwanda’s case, our main challenge is flooding. As a majorly agrarian economy, our biggest asset in this regard is our top soil.

Flooding often depletes this resource. In as much as changing weather patterns affect agriculture, what poses the biggest risk is flooding as result of water bodies expanding beyond their banks and washing away the topsoil which could potentially leading to an economic collapse. The increasing occurrence of flash floods is reason enough for us take heed and start mitigating this risk.

Fortunately, and as always, the Rwandan government is already ahead of the game in putting together a resilience plan to avoid such catastrophes. In fact, they have gone so far as to invest in innovative technology that will reduce dependency on fossil fuels and create a climate resilient country.

Rwanda is looking at this as an opportunity to remain at the forefront of innovative solutions. This vision may seem grandiose in what it aims at accomplishing but it doesn’t exclude the individual. We all contribute in one way or the other.

By simply understanding the vision and being aware of how our day to day actions contribute to degrading or improving the environment is in many ways a contribution. With that in mind, it is safe to say that climate change is not a concept of the west but rather a looming threat that we are already working hard to mitigate.

The author is a social-political commentator.

The views expressed in this article are of the author.


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