According to United Nations, Climate Change refers to long-term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns.
These shifts may be natural, such as through variations in the solar cycle.
But since the 1800s, human activities have been the main driver of climate change, primarily due to burning fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas.
Burning fossil fuels generates greenhouse gas emissions which act like a blanket wrapped around the earth, trapping the sun’s heat and raising the earth’s temperatures.
Carbon dioxide and methane are examples of greenhouse gas emissions currently causing climate change.
These come from using gasoline to drive a car or coal to heat a building, for example.
Clearing land and forests can also release carbon dioxide.
Landfills for garbage are a major source of methane emissions.
Energy, industry, transport, buildings, agriculture, and land use are among the major emitters of
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) defines climate change as “A broad range of global phenomena created predominantly by burning fossil fuels, which add heat-trapping gases to the Earth’s atmosphere.
These phenomena include the increased temperature trends described by global warming, but also encompass changes such as sea-level rise, ice mass loss in Greenland, Antarctica, the Arctic and mountain glaciers worldwide, shifts in flower or plant blooming, and extreme weather events.”
Differently put, climate change is the global phenomenon of climate transformation characterized by the changes in the usual climate of the planet (regarding temperature, precipitation, and wind) that human activities cause.
Unbalanced Earth’s weather threatens the sustainability of the planet’s ecosystems, the future of humankind and the stability of the global economy.
It is worth noting that climate change isn’t only a national issue but a global issue that has attracted the interest of an array of entities and individuals: policy analysts, governments, not-for-profit organizations, civil society, scholars, environmental scientists, and environmental enthusiasts, among others.
Due to its adverse effects, climate change has gained traction among the said entities.
In the words of Douglas Alexander on climate change in Africa, “The cruel irony of climate change is that the countries least responsible for it will be worst affected.
Greater variations of rainfall combined with rising sea levels will lead to more extreme weather, particularly in parts of Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America.”
This statement rings a bell now than when he stated it in 2007 in Kenya.
One may be able to state that climate change is an issue that can’t affect Kenya as a country.
Such a person, I may say, is not a keen observer of the daily issues that have started changing in Kenya over time.
Perhaps it may be incumbent upon me to demystify the damaging effects of climate change generally and then move to the economic effects of climate change in Kenya.
Generally, the effects of climate change include but are not limited to warmer temperatures over time and changing weather patterns, which disrupt the natural balance of nature.
These effects pose numerous risks to human beings and all other forms of life on Earth.
For instance, water is becoming scarcer in more regions.
Droughts can stir destructive sand and dust storms that can move billions of tons of sand across continents.
Deserts are expanding, reducing arable land.
Many people now face the threat of not having enough water on a regular basis because temperature changes are causing rainfall reductions.
Such changes result in more severe and frequent storms, causing flooding and landslides, destroying homes and communities, and costing billions of pounds in recovery funds.
Simultaneously, as the ocean soaks up most of the heat from global warming, the ocean’s ice sheets melt, raising sea levels and threatening both coastal and island communities.
The ocean also absorbs carbon dioxide, keeping it from the atmosphere. Eventually, the carbon dioxide makes the ocean more acidic, which endangers marine life.
Climate change poses risks to the survival of flora and fauna on land and in the ocean.
These risks increase as temperatures spike.
Forest fires, extreme weather and invasive pests and diseases are among many other possible threats.
Some species may relocate and survive, but others would not.
Changes in climate and increases in extreme weather events are among the reasons behind a global rise in hunger and poor nutrition.
Fisheries, crops and livestock are being destroyed and their productivity is reduced.
Heat stress is diminishing water points and drying grasslands in Kenya, stifling animal life.
When floods sweep urban slums and rural areas in Kenya, the destruction continues to plunge more people into poverty.
In some parts of Kenya such as Wajir, Mandera and Garissa, the intense heat has made it unbearable to engage in outdoor jobs effectively.
Resultantly, lower productivity hours have led to low income and the inability to emancipate the workers from poverty.
Changing weather patterns are communicating more diseases such as malaria, increasing the country’s mortality rates and making it difficult for health care systems to keep up.
Other climate change-induced risks to health include increased hunger and poor nutrition in places where people cannot grow or find sufficient food.
Warmer temperatures cause the pollen season to be longer and worsen air quality, which can result in more allergies and asthma attacks.
Ground-level ozone, a major component of smog, increases when temperatures warm.
It then causes coughing, chest tightness or pain, decreases lung function, and worsens asthma and other chronic lung diseases.
After floods or storms, damp buildings may foster mold growth, which has been linked to allergies and other lung diseases.
With the rising temperatures, more people might suffer heat cramps, heat exhaustion, hyperthermia (high body temperature), and heat stroke as unusually-hot days hamper the body’s ability to regulate its temperature.
Prolonged exposure to heat can exacerbate cardiovascular, respiratory and kidney diseases and diabetes and increases the chance of strokes.
At face value, economy denotes the state of a country or region in terms of goods and services production and consumption and the supply of money.
The economic effects of climate change hinder the growth of the economy of Kenya.
Kenya’s economy is largely dependent on tourism and rainfed agriculture, both susceptible to climate change and extreme weather events.
Increasing heat and recurrent droughts contribute to severe crop and livestock losses, leading to famine, displacement, and other threats to human health and well-being.
Kenya’s predominantly low-lying coastline and surrounding islands are at risk from sea level rise, with significant implications for the fisheries sector.
Agriculture is the leading source of greenhouse gas emissions in Kenya, largely driven by enteric fermentation from livestock.
The economic impacts of weather-related extremes – and the costs of these to the growth and development in Kenya – are already significant.
Extreme flood and drought events are estimated to reduce long-term growth in Kenya by about 2.4% of GDP per annum.
Future climate change may lead to a change in the frequency or severity of such extreme weather events, potentially worsening impacts.
Increased average temperatures and changes in annual and seasonal rainfall will be felt across key economic sectors, possibly affecting agricultural production, health status, water availability, energy use, infrastructure, biodiversity, and ecosystem services (including forestry and tourism).
Impacts are likely to have disproportionately strong effects on the poor as such vulnerable groups have fewer resources to adapt to climatic change.
Finally, businesses are also likely to be affected by climate change.
Indeed, in a context where the climate is changing, companies need to be aware of the risks that they may face and be prepared to deal with them by developing CSR strategies that evaluate the impacts they may suffer.
Events such as damaged crops, the loss of infrastructures, unexpected changes in market stocks, investors asking for sustainability reports, and growing expectations of society for businesses to be transparent are variables to keep an eye on.
In a nutshell, there is a dire need to mitigate climate change.
The effects of climate change are multidimensional and affect all spheres of our lives.
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There is a need for proactiveness from all sector players to combat climate change and put measures in place to reduce the adverse effects of climate change.
Jerameel Kevins Owuor Odhiambo is a law student at University of Nairobi, Parklands Campus.