Human Greed : primary cause of climate change
By Pawlos Belete
in Capital, Wednesday, 14 September 2011, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
New research conducted by the Forum for Social Studies has found that Ethiopia might lose up to 75 percent of its animal species due to climate change. The research, conducted by Alebachew Adem, Environmental Researcher at the forum states that the country’s endemic animals could migrate out of the country in order to cope with the ever changing environment and that coverage of tropical thorny woodland and very dry tropical forests will decrease by seven and eight percent, respectively. Alebachew presented his research paper for journalists at a workshop organised by Ethiopian Environmental Journalist Association (EEJA) in collaboration with Heinrich Boll Stiftung, Ethiopia office.
Other research also backs up his findings. The national Plan for Accelerated and Sustainable Development to End Poverty (PASDEP) attributes a 0.5 percent decline in grazing resources every year due to the change in climate. While, a regional and local survey indicates that bush intrusion (invasion of toxic weeds and thorny bushes) brought about by climate change is a threat to indigenous tree and grass species.
“The primary reason for climate change is our [world’s people] own greed and unsustainable use of environmental resources,” argues Alebachew Adem, Environmental Researcher at Forum for Social Studies.
A study conducted by National Metrological Agency (NMA) shows that with a temperature rise of 2.4°C to 3°C and a five percent decline in precipitation, the spatial coverage of subtropical dry forests and subtropical moist zone will decline by 21-24 percent and four percent, respectively. Another independent research, published in 2007, found that a unit increase in summer temperatures will reduce the net revenue per hectare by more than 177 dollars.
The world, home to close on seven billion human beings, along with other plant and animal species, is facing a triple crisis: food, energy and climate change. All of them are pretty much interlinked. These crises punish, above all, the worst-off and most vulnerable segment of the human family: the poor. It is a natural paradox that those that contributed the least to the worsening of the climate change face most of adverse effects. Climate change puts all sectors of the planet’s systems at a collective long-term risk. Ecosystems, businesses, development efforts and investments opportunities will all be affected. As a portion of the wider world, Ethiopia is not immune to the aforementioned risks, Alebachew’s study found.
Climate change affects the basic elements of life for people around the world; including access to water, food production, health, and the environment. Hundreds of millions of people could suffer hunger, water shortages and coastal flooding as the world’s environment continues to warm at a faster than natural speed.
Within recognizable seasons, unusual and “unseasonable” events are occurring more frequently, including heavy rains in dry seasons, dry spells in rainy seasons, storms at unusual times, dense and lingering fogs, and temperature fluctuations.
In Africa alone, by 2020, between 75 million and 250 million people are projected to be exposed to increased water stress induced by climate change. Particularly along the margins of semi-arid and arid areas, the available land suitable for agriculture, the length of growing seasons and the yield potential are all expected to decrease. This would further adversely affect food security and exacerbate malnutrition in the continent. This year alone, more than 13.5 million people in the horn of Africa faced drought, of which 4.5 millions are Ethiopians.
Along with the stress felt by people, these drought conditions have an overall effect on the productivity of the country. During the 1984 to 85 drought, for example, Ethiopian GDP declined by 9.7 percent, agriculture output declined by 21 percent, and gross domestic savings declined by 59 percent.
The research conducted by Alebachew indicates that climate change is expected to significantly alter African biodiversity as species struggle to adapt to changing conditions. It finds that the cost of adaptation could amount to at least five to 10 percent of Africa’s GDP.
“If we don’t act quickly, the overall costs and risks of climate change will be equivalent to losing at least five percent of global GDP each year, now and forever. If a wider range of risks and impacts are taken into account, the estimates of damage could rise to 20 percent of GDP or more,” it states.
In contrast, the costs of action, reducing greenhouse gas emissions to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, can be limited to around one percent of global GDP every year.
Climate change in Ethiopia is manifesting itself through increased temperatures and precipitation. Global model estimates show that in Ethiopia more warming is likely to take place than the global average. According to a report published by National Metrological Agency (NMA) in 2007, Ethiopia experienced 10 wet years and 11 dry years over the last 55 years, demonstrating a strong inter-annual variability. Between 1951 and 2006, the annual minimum temperature in Ethiopia increased by about 0.37°C every decade. However, the increment differs according to altitude. It was 0.3°C for highland areas and 0.4°C for lowlands.
The UNDP 2007/08 Climate Change Profile for Ethiopia also showed that the mean annual temperature in Ethiopia had increased by 1.3°C between 1960 and 2006, at an average rate of 0.28°C per decade.
Since 1965, Ethiopia has repeatedly suffered from weather shocks in the form of droughts, and has also to a lesser extent suffered from floods. The major floods which have hit the country have consecutively inflicted heavy loss of life and property. The tragic floods that, in 2006, hit Dire Dawa, South Omo and West Shewa led to the loss of 700 human lives, drowning of 3,600 cattle and the displacement of 35,000 people. About 200,000 people were critically affected by the flood.
The World Bank, in 2006, predicted that rainfall variability in Ethiopia will cost the country about 38 percent of its potential growth rate.
In Ethiopia, rainfall is extremely uneven and erratic, and in recent years particularly the belg rains have become increasingly unpredictable, often failing completely. This has resulted in a growing tendency to cultivate crops only in the meher season and has significant implications for annual production levels, as the belg crop used to account for up to 40 percent of the total harvest. Environmental experts are calling this phenomenon the ‘The death of seasons’.
Shifts in the onset and ending of the rains; shorter rainy days, warmer and fewer cold days and nights, frequent short but heavy precipitation events, hailstorm and frost, instability of winds, increased landslides and soil erosion, and increased health risks (malaria, diarrhea, and malnutrition) are all evidence that the climate system in Ethiopia is changing, Alebachew’s research found.
Alebachew, however, sees climate change both as a challenge and as an opportunity.
He concludes, “As a challenge climate change can make our poverty permanent. But it can also be an opportunity for sustainable green growth if we unleash the potential of agriculture, harness the multiple benefits of water resources, massively expand access to modern energy, combine climate change adaptation and parallel approaches, step up the fight against infectious diseases, promote land management and sustainable agriculture, and reduce vulnerability through sustainable livelihoods.”