Climate change has escalated dire uncertainty for the future of our planet.
Extreme weather conditions such as droughts, floods and heatwaves have knocked severe impacts on food security, livelihood, and the economy.
In the process, vulnerable groups suffer the most, among them young people and children.
Young people across the globe are increasingly aware of the challenges and risks the climate crisis presents.
They stand between a generation that created the mess and a generation that will benefit from today’s actions.
Many of them have taken the initiative to develop innovative solutions that can help governments and stakeholders save the planet.
Today, the planet is warming much faster than it has over human history.
According to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) 2021 Annual Climate Report, “the combined land and ocean temperature has increased at an average rate of 0.08 degrees Celsius per decade since 1880; however, the average rate of increase since 1981 has been more than twice as fast: 0.18 °C per decade.”
This only depicts a bleak future if greenhouse gases continue being released into the atmosphere.
On Thursday, March 16, 2023, the University of Nairobi held a public lecture, which was an avenue to listen and learn from diverse minds on different subjects.
The President of Italy, Sergio Matterella, the Chief Guest, called upon everyone to commit to the fight against climate change. He addressed the audience on the impact of climate change as a common challenge for both Africa and Europe.
Other officials in attendance are Cabinet Secretary Education, Ezekiel Machogu and CS Environment, Climate Change and Forestry, Soipan Tuya.
Claws of climate change
There has been a need for meaningful collaboration with youth and grassroots organizations to create an opportunity for all voices to be heard.
This has been witnessed with prolonged drought in our country, heat waves, and storms in Europe.
Speaking during the public lecture, CS Tuya said that human activities such as the use of fossil fuels, deforestation, and unsustainable agriculture contribute greatly to climate change.
“We have been faced with a drought that has not been seen in the last 40 years where the country has faced a loss of livelihood for Kenyans at catastrophic levels. We have lost more than 3 million livestock just in the last few months,” CS Tuya said.
Amidst the long wait for rains, Kenya had been faced with a tang drought which saw farmers selling their livestock at a throw-away price.
A cow that would have sold for KSh20,000 was now priced at KSh500 because of its weak state caused by the drought.
It was better for farmers to sell them at that price than to see them bitten by the drought to death.
CS Tuya called for young people to take measures to reduce such climate injustices and fully position themselves as stakeholders and change agents.
“Climate change is a complex global problem because it is intertwined with many other issues such as economic development and poverty reduction. Eradication of poverty and improving living conditions through sustainable development remains a global priority,” she said.
This comes when Cyclone Freddy has been a climate change fruit that has recently caused horror in Madagascar, Mozambique and Malawi.
The storm began to brew in early February in the southeastern Indian Ocean off northern Australia and has so far claimed more than 200 lives in Mozambique and Malawi.
Cyclones are expected to grow stronger and even last longer as the planet becomes warmer.
New research finds that weak tropical cyclones, including tropical storms and low-category hurricanes, are intensifying over time.
It is, therefore, without a doubt why the recent Cyclone Freddy unofficially broke the World Meteorological Organisation’s benchmark as the longest-lasting tropical cyclone on record, set in 1994 for a 31-day storm named John.
Africa is the continent most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.
Already experiencing temperature increases of approximately 0.7°C over much of the continent, and with predictions that temperatures will rise further, Africa faces a wide range of impacts, including increased drought and floods.
African cities are nonetheless positioning themselves to invest in low-carbon sustainable development while working to address the current and future impacts of climate hazards.
Coming closer home to the contribution of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, Kenya amounted to roughly 16 million metric tons of CO2 emissions in 2020, down from 18.3 million metric tons in the previous year.
There have been, however, frameworks and strategies put in place to reduce the emissions and at least escape the furious claws of climate change.
“As a country, we are alive to the importance of providing education, training and awareness to the broadest audience possible,” said the government official.
“We must focus on planting the seed to create an informed citizenry, a knowledgeable workforce, enlightened government officials and the role of each person on environmental management, protection and conservation,” she added.
Young people in climate action
Despite being passive victims of climate change, young people have proven to be valuable contributors to climate action.
They have been vulnerable to environmental degradation and climate change impacts, but their unmatched mobilization around the world demonstrates the enormous power they have to hold decision-makers accountable.
“It is important that the youth are not presented merely in a passive manner as a vulnerable demographic in need of support but rather as an active force that can play a critical role as change agents,” CS Tuya pointed out.
She further noted that young people have been included in various national environmental and climate policies where they are keen to position the youth as stakeholders to be included in decision-making and climate action as active agents of change.
CS Tuya and her ministry are actively engaging young people in a 15 billion national tree-growing and environmental restoration campaign.
In their bucket list, they envision recruiting a green army of 100,000 young people from across the country who will lead the mobilization of the tree-growing campaigns in efforts to capitalize on nature-based solutions to climate change.
She also affirmed the National Adaptation Plan, The Climate Change Act, and the Climate Change Framework Policy, which reference youth in calling special attention to their role in supporting climate resilience and the benefits of reinforcing intra- and inter-generational equity in supporting young people.
Ahead of Africa Climate Action Summit to be held in Nairobi on September 4-6, 2023, CS Tuya stated that the youth have participated in preparing The Youth Climate Action with fellow young people across Africa.
“My ministry is already engaging with various youth from across the country to influence youth-centric issues that will bring African Climate Summit and consequently COP-28,” she said.
Governments and stakeholders come together annually to agree on policies to limit global temperature rises and adapt to impacts associated with climate change.
To the fact that the older generation has already messed up the planet, young people have been handed the mantle of saving the future generation.
To ensure that climate action is efficient and well executed from the roots, CS Tuya urged universities to develop and establish a curriculum that traces an environment and climate change education for sustainable development program which uses innovative educational approaches to help a broad audience with a special focus on the youth.
“Universities should help in the development of new policy-relevant, action-oriented research on the social, human, ethical and gender dimensions of environment and climate change,” she asserted.
She added that people often think that environmental climate change problems are to be solved by governments or scientists.
She explained that everyone has the power to make a difference and that even small changes in people’s lifestyles and behaviors can help largely in climate action.
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“Stabilizing the state of our global commons needs the concerted efforts and action of everyone and all parts of society,” she said in conclusion.