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 Between the Desert and the Deep Sea By Owei Lakemfa

BALTIMORE, MD (AFRICAN EXAMINER) – Ministers from seventy countries camped   in France for three days from this Sunday. It was humanity’s  War  Cabinet meeting for the third time this year. It was like a country being under carpet bombing, and the Executive debating how to scramble jets into the sky to mitigate the disaster.

For centuries, humanity has mercilessly plundered the earth’s  resources without a thought for its implications. Now the earth is fighting back   like  an awaken giant extracting  its pound of flesh. The reparation being sought by mother earth is unaffordable.  All we hope to do at the 195-nation United Nations Climate Change Forum in Bourget, France from November 30 to December 11, 2015, is to try mitigate the disaster.

There is already climate change; what humanity is trying to do is make  propitiation to mother earth. To mitigate the catastrophe, humanity has for six  years now, negotiated amongst itself, for  a maximum  two percent global warming above the pre-Industrial Revolution level, rather than the current four – five degrees. This week, all the promises made to cut global warming will bring it down to a high three percent. Even at that, these are promises that may still be broken on the altar of political convenience.

No matter the talks  and actions taken,  the salvage mission has come too late for some in the world. The Pacific island nations of Kiribati and Tuvula  are likely to disappear in the sea like the legendary Atlantis. With rising sea levels, the countries now stand at a little more than one metre, or three feet above sea level. For them, it is a matter of time before the sea swallows them. The options being considered including purchasing land in other places like Australia to grow food and relocating their entire population, or building man-made islands to absorb them. Kiribati is  concentrating on building skills so that if  its population has to move  like the migrants from war torn countries are now forced to, they would not be a liability to the receiving nations. Given the fact that there are fourteen pacific nations, it means that more countries may be claimed by the seas.

One year before the 2012 floods that  devastated large parts of Nigeria,  the US Institute for Peace had published a Report that in the last forty years, rainfall in the Southern states had increased by 20 percent. When the floods came in 2012, villages and human beings were washed down the River Niger from the Northern parts of the country.  When the floods reached the Niger Delta, huge populations fled; whole towns were submerged. My grand mother’s house  I was born in, did not flee with the population; it stood resolute in the floods for weeks, but when the waters finally receded, it had huge gaps and cracks like a house bombed.

The American Report said in fifty years, sea levels in Nigerian coastal areas rose by one foot, and that in the next seventy five years, it will rise by between 1.5 and 3 feet.  On the other hand, it said that within the same period, large parts of  states in the North like Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Kano, Kaduna, Kasina, Kebbi, Sokoto, Yobe and Zamfara, could turn into deserts.

This means that more lands will be lost, leading to more pressure and conflicts over farming and grazing lands.

Africa is particularly vulnerable with advancing deserts and  the entire West African coast from Lagos through Cotonou, Lome, Accra, to Banjul being quite vulnerable. Worse still, we have oceanic countries like Seychelles, Mauritius, Madagascar and the Comoros that  are directly threatened by rising seas.

With twenty three percent living in coastal areas,  humanity faces catastrophe. A US–based research group, Climate Central  reports  this week that large swathes of New York and Shanghai  may go under the waves. The Green Peace with the slogan ‘Real people can’t live under water’ reports that “Of the thirty nine big metropolitan areas with a population over 5 million, sixty percent are located within 100km of the coast. These include twelve of the biggest 16 with populations exceeding 10 million although the great majority of people live in smaller settlements in the coastal zone. High densities of people are also found in delta regions, which are particularly vulnerable to flooding.” The World Bank on November 8, reported that with climate change, 100 million additional people will be under the poverty line by 2030.

The issue is not that we need energy to survive, the problem is the type of energy. Currently, only 14 percent of our energy usage is based on Renewables. The balance is built on energy  harmful to the environment; oil accounts for 31 percent, coal 29, gas 21,  and Nuclear, 5 percent.  The bad news is that these sources of energy are cheap and available in large quantities.

We all know the dangers, but world politicians continue to bicker. The biggest polluters are the industrialized countries  in Europe and America. But having developed their countries primarily by polluting the environment and with less population growth, they  have less need  for such energy. However, good news continue to flow from  the Polluter-in-Chief, the US which hitherto, had scuttled negotiations including the Kyoto agreements.  Now, President Barrack  Obama promises  US co-operation. To underline this, on November 6, he stopped the Keystone-XL Pipeline project that would have carried  Canadian oil through America to the Gulf of Mexico to the world market. Vladimir Putin, to underscore Russia’s commitment, has announced  he would personally attend the UN Forum. Leaders  of the new big time polluters, Xi Jingping of China and Narendra Modi of India also promised to attend. Underdeveloped  countries want financial guarantees to enable them move towards Renewables.

Generally, humanity needs to conserve energy usage, especially at home,  ensure  Minimum Energy Performance Standards (MEPS) for appliances, encourage energy-saving industries, plants and machinery especially  in cement and steel factories, and build power stations near consumers to minimize losses in distribution and transmission. When God was said to have given  humanity dominion over all things, he did not give us the license to destroy the world.


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