Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Resituating Africa in Global Politics on Climate Change by Sesan Michael Johnson

Last Saturday, December 13, 2014 seemed to be tagged a day for environmental sanitation (cleanup activities) in my neighbourhood as almost everyone around was busy cleaning up his/her vicinity. However, what is worrisome was the burning of their dumping. The most annoying was the burning of old automobile tires in about three places at the same time. Expectedly, as the chunky smoke began to migrate into our compound causing discomposure, my wife began to protest against this pollution. This scene ignites the spirit of environmental advocacy in me, particularly at this period, a day after over 190 nation-states of the world signed the LIMA Agreement on Climate Change in Peru. 

 Since the industrial revolution began in Britain in the 18th century and spreading to other parts of Europe, America and the rest of the world, carbon dioxides (CO2) levels have risen by more than 30% and methane levels have risen more than 140%. Reportedly, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is now higher than at any time in at least 800,000 years.

Evidently, the planet's climate has constantly been changing over geological time. The global average temperature today is said to be about 15C, though geological evidence suggests it has been much higher and lower in the past.

However, the current period of warming is occurring more rapidly than many past events. There is a great concern that the natural fluctuation is being accentuated by a rapid human-induced warming that has serious implications for the steadiness of the planet's climate. Environmental advocates and scientists believe human beings are adding to the natural greenhouse effect with gases released from industry and agriculture, trapping more energy and increasing the temperature.

The most important of these gases in the natural greenhouse effect is water vapour, but concentrations show little change. Other greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, which are released by burning fossil fuels as well as through cutting down carbon-absorbing forests. 

The depressing effects of the increasing proliferation of these greenhouse gases must be subsided. These effects are wide spread, and its complicatedness cannot be overemphasized. Asides the destruction of ozone layer amidst it cacophony corollary. The effects of a changing climate can also be seen in vegetation and land animals. These include earlier flowering and fruiting times for plants and range-shifts for terrestrial animals. The scale of potential impacts is uncertain. The changes could drive freshwater shortages, bring sweeping changes in food production conditions, and increase the number of deaths from floods, storms, heat waves and droughts. Scientists forecast more rainfall overall, but say the risk of drought in inland areas during hot summers will increase. More flooding is expected from storms and rising sea levels.

There are, however, likely to be very strong regional variations in these patterns. Hence, developing countries such as Nigeria, which are least equipped to deal with rapid change, could suffer the most.
Plant and animal extinctions are predicted as habitats change faster than species can adapt, and the World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that the health of millions could be threatened by increases in malaria, water-borne disease and malnutrition. Markedly, these are still health challenges that developing nations are struggling with. 

Taking a censorious look at the currency of global politics on the environment, particularly on climate change and following the ‘dependency theory and structural theory’, one can easily conclude that African states are becoming more vulnerable. My submission is that there is need for researchers/scholars to begin to interrogate global environmental politics within the paradigms of deterrent theory, partial theory, compellent theory, humanitarian theory and economic theory.

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