‘You will rarely find a climate denier in East Africa’ | Climate crisis

RRecently, I interviewed a 70-year-old coconut farmer, who told me of the hundreds of trees he was losing to the drought that was ravaging his hometown of Rabai in southern Kenya. Holding back tears, he told me how weather patterns he could no longer master or predict had left him without a way to provide for his family. He and the other farmers here may not know the science behind climate change, but it’s part of their lived reality.

I now live in my home country of Kenya but spent several years in the US where I also experienced the effects of climate change. In 2015, when I graduated from a graduate program, Boston was experiencing one of the most intense snowstorms on record. About 108 inches (9 feet) of snow blocked streets and sidewalks, prompting the city to impose driving bans and shut down public transportation. At the university, classes were canceled due to bad weather.

My second graduation in 2019 coincided with the second hottest year on record in the world. In New York City, summer temperatures soared to heights of 35C (95F), making the searing heat a topic of conversation: “hot girl summer” became a catchphrase, and my non-American friends and I laughed at the country’s affinity for air conditioning ..

People enjoy the refreshing water at a fountain at Flushing Meadow Corona Park in the borough of Queens in New York City in 2019. Photograph: Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images

It is strange, and often disturbing, to observe the different ways in which climate change has manifested itself in these two countries. It is still acceptable in the United States to question anthropogenic climate change, with some denying that the climate is changing or dismissing its scientifically proven consequences. But you will rarely find a climate denier in East Africa. Most people have witnessed or been affected by extreme weather events.

Even in West Africa, a friend of mine scoffed at the idea of ​​someone in denial about climate change while living on the continent: “What would someone in Nigeria gain by denying climate change?” he asked. The country has been hit by the worst floods in over a decade, killing more than 600 people and displacing at least 1.4 million. But why hasn’t it received more international interest? The prevailing sense, he said, is that Africa “is no stranger to tragedy,” and somehow this latest incident was no different.

Every week I see at least one story about how drought in northern Kenya is driving millions into starvation, and it’s a devastating story to tell. The situation there mirrors what is happening in much of the Horn of Africa, which is facing its worst drought in decades. Uganda, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo have faced deadly floods this year, displacing thousands of people. The situation is far worse in South Sudan, where record rainfall flooded two-thirds of the country last month.

The United States has faced wildfires, hurricanes and cyclones. But it is very obvious that the capabilities of governments in the global north to respond to these emergencies are far superior to those in the global south. The US government can send massive relief and support efforts in climate emergencies like Hurricane Ian, with thousands of first responders and tens of millions of dollars supporting affected families. It is absolutely right, but it is impossible for most governments in developing countries.

Climate disasters like droughts get a fair amount of government attention and resources to put out fires, as well as needed water and emergency food supplies. But the future rests on a sustainable climate response.

We are all affected by climate change, but some countries are more directly and destructively affected by it. I’ve even come across lists of “best places to live to avoid climate change.” But for populations in many parts of the world, there is no escape nor is there any sign of rescue.

Honesty about who is facing the worst impacts often mirrors the “Black Lives Matter/All Lives Matter” debate and takes discussions away from context, nuance, or thoughtful solutions. Yet it remains the focus of climate summits every year. Technical proposals involving ‘carbon taxes’ and ‘carbon budgets’, which take into account historical and current emitters, make an important contribution to addressing impacts and adaptation options and reducing future emissions.

Women and children of the Turkana herding community are affected by the worsening drought due to the lack of rainy seasons.
Women and children of the Turkana herding community in Kenya are affected by the worsening drought due to the lack of rainy seasons. Photograph: Thomas Mukoya/Reuters

Developed nations have broken promises to channel $100 billion a year to developing nations – a sum that is only a fraction of what is needed to fight the climate crisis. Climate finance to African governments is mostly in the form of loans – approved on boardrooms, by somewhat isolated or removed leaders – which are pushing a number of countries in the region into even more debt to deal with the crisis. .

Calls for Africa to avoid coal and fossil fuels are seen as hypocritical and have drawn fierce pushback from leaders across the continent. Africa emits less than 4% of global carbon emissions opposes the idea that they should curb the use of fossil fuels at the expense of development, while their global counterparts make a lot of money from their use and millions of Africans still lack access to electricity.

Even as the continent continues to be disproportionately affected, African climate change activists are often excluded or symbolized at global summits or conferences: mirroring the continent’s struggles and power imbalances in international discussions on global warming.

As the effects of climate change continue to worsen, many hope that COP27 will break away from previous summits and that equitable solutions will emerge that recognize the severity of the crisis, especially in the parts of the world that are experiencing it the most.

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