Climate Change for Dummies




The days seem to be changing. It is raining when it should not, and warming up faster than it should. Evenings are rarely cold anymore. Dawn has become too hot. It is not just the climate, but also the environment itself.

The oceans are rising, swallowing expanses of land at low sea level. The beautiful blue skies are getting constantly overshadowed by pregnant rain clouds.

Scientists know what is happening. It seems the planet’s climate is changing for the worst. The earth, though not for the first time, is warming up. Climate has never been constant. It may take millennia, but surely it likes to fluctuate. The reasons for this are many, but most affect the climate at a very gradual rate.

This time though, the circumstances are broadly different. The climate has become a victim. Mother Nature, it seems, does not have the upper hand in the physical world the same way it used to.

The man has become too powerful and too numerous to control and govern under a certain set of rules. The climate is currently not just the instrument of nature but also of humankind’s whims.

The current phenomenon of climate change, called global warming, is man-made. It is caused by most of the means that have given us the modern world. Factories, household items and cars release too much greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Coal has been the main villain. It may power cities, but it may also destroy the environment. Smoke and tar coal factories’ gulp away has to go somewhere, and constant dumping straight into the atmosphere for over a hundred and fifty years has left the planet in tatters.

On the other hand, there is crude oil. It can be refined into fuel, which when burned up has its side effects, but it could, more importantly, be used as the basis for plastic. Plastic is cheap, making it exceedingly abundant.

But it is also very hard to recycle as the process of collecting and sorting out thrown away plastic is expensive, not to mention the time it consumes. Most plastic finds itself in the ocean, where much of the planet’s oxygen comes from.

Scientific data suggest that it is about time we start panicking. As the average temperature of the earth increases, the polar icecaps are melting away. Large ice shelves of Antarctica, the continent which contains about 85pc of the world’s ice, are liquefying. This means that the global sea level will rise. Many of the world’s coastlines, islands and other low-lying cities may become under water – the globe will be redrawn.

The 21st century is the worst time for the planet to become less habitable. In a few generations, human population will explode to a mind-numbing ten billion. Loss of resources and living quarters that surely will be caused by climate change will exacerbate the world’s energy and clean water problem.

Competition between militarily powerful but desperate countries like Russia, the Unites States and China may lead to devastating wars.

So what is being done?

In 2015, a landmark accord – the Paris Agreement – was signed between almost every nation of the world. Its aim is to minimise carbon emissions into the atmosphere for the global average temperature to reach below 2-degree celsius.

Some aspects of climate change, like the sea level rising, are at this point considered irreversible, but the treaty, if indeed realised, could greatly lessen the blow.

Ethiopia is a signatory of the Paris Agreement. Yet it has minimal influence on the climate. On the flip side though, ironically enough, Ethiopia is very vulnerable to climate change.

The country is landlocked, and one of the fortunes of being one, perhaps the only one, is that we do not have to worry much about rising sea levels. But the economy is largely rain-fed agriculture.

Technology has not reached the large section of the agrarian society. Farmers still rely on seasonal rains: if it rains too soon or too late, their crops will die. This makes droughts especially devastating, and famine hard to stave off.

Desperation though, with determination, and under the right circumstances, could lead to great solutions. The Paris accord, in demanding fewer emissions from nations around the world is asking governments and businesses to come up with more environmentally viable alternative energy sources.

The Industrial Age, for all the good it did in making our lives easier, has reached its boiling point. More technology, not the same, is our knight in shining armour.

And Ethiopia could be a significant player in the new path the world is planning to take. For the longest time now, we have been banging our heads for lagging behind.

Change is on the horizon, and the future will belong to those who see far and beyond. As far as green technology is concerned, it is at a grassroots level.

Every nation in the world, more or less, is at the starting line. The game is just about getting started. The proverbial gun has been fired – we are a little behind at the moment. But if we tried, we can quickly catch up, be a major player in the new era of clean technology.



By Christian Tesfaye
Christian Tesfaye (christian.tesfaye@yahoo.com) is a writer/film critic whose interests run amok in both directions of print and celluloid/digital storytelling.

Published on Jun 17,2017 [ Vol 18 ,No 894]


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