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Africa Is Burning

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    Africa Is Burning Roxanne Lawson and Elizabeth Bast December 04, 2006 http://www.tompaine.com/articles/2006/12/04/africa_is_burning.php Elizabeth Bast is an
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 4, 2006
      Africa Is Burning
      Roxanne Lawson and Elizabeth Bast
      December 04, 2006

      Elizabeth Bast is an International Policy Analyst at Friends of the
      Earth-U.S. Roxanne Lawson is an International Policy Campaigner for
      Friends of the Earth.

      The effects of the Great Warming are not fairly shared. Fourteen
      percent of the world's population lives in the 57 countries on the
      African continent. However, because the majority of Africans live with
      little to no access to electricity and personal transport usage is
      among the world's lowest, Africans contribute only 3 percent of the
      global greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming.

      The United States, conversely, with only 5 percent of the world's
      population, contributes nearly 25 percent of worldwide greenhouse gas
      pollution annually. In the United States, with our consumption of
      electricity, our ecologically harmful industries and our 230 million
      passenger vehicles, we are literally fueling the destruction of the
      planet's environment.

      Last month, at the United Nations Climate Change summit in Nairobi,
      Kenya, climate change experts from around the globe reported to 165
      countries on the impacts of global warming, which will be felt most
      harshly by poor developing countries. If that weren't bad enough, the
      former World Bank chief economist Sir Nicholas Stern recently released
      a report that suggests that global warming could shrink the global
      economy by 20 percent over the next 50 years. From the report and the
      summit, it is clear that climate change is as much a humanitarian,
      security and economic issue as an environmental one.

      Unfortunately, some of the world's richest countries and major
      polluters—Australia, Canada and the U.S.—failed, at the summit, to
      address the most urgent needs of the world's poorest countries.
      Climate change has already caused significant damage on the African
      continent and it is now agonizingly clear that a lack of action by the
      world's major polluters to reduce global warming pollution will, in
      short order, devastate the globe. "I do not see any change in our
      policy," said the United States' senior climate negotiator, Harlan
      Watson, days after the conference began. "We feel very comfortable."

      According to the hundreds of scientists and other experts on the
      U.N.-backed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, global warming
      will create dramatically increased droughts, water shortages, coastal
      floods and disease for Africans.

      The changes from the Great Warming are already being felt in many
      places. The people of northern Kenya, for instance, are still
      suffering today from a drought that started in 2003. Kenyan
      pastoralists have lost 10 million livestock, and two-thirds of the
      population in the Turkana region has lost their livelihoods.

      In Nigeria, severe flooding in the Niger Delta has become more
      frequent, with floods wiping out crops and disrupting traditional
      farming practices. In Tanzania, one third of the ice field peak of
      Mount Kilimanjaro has disappeared in the last 12 years; 82 percent of
      Kilimanjaro's peak has vanished since it was first mapped in 1912.

      Global warming has also caused changes in weather patterns that have
      and will continue to disrupt livelihoods across the continent.
      Declining crop yields in the next 20 years will lead to more famines
      and deaths. Droughts and increasing desertification mean smaller
      areas of viable farm land and an increase in forced migration to more
      densely populated areas. The results of global warming will inevitably
      heighten resource scarcity and fuel conflict and war.

      Meanwhile, in some African countries, the oil, gas, mining and other
      extractive industries that support the consumption habits of the
      United States and other rich countries contribute to global warming.
      Nigeria, South Africa and Angola are all nations with comparatively
      high greenhouse gas emissions by African standards.

      Nigeria in particular has the highest greenhouse gas emissions in
      sub-Saharan Africa because of the "flaring" of excess, unwanted
      natural gas by multinational oil companies. When gas comes to the
      surface during the oil extraction process, the gas is burned rather
      than reinjected into the ground or processed for use by local
      communities. The result is toxic pollution in the short term and
      global warming that will ultimately harm those communities a second time

      Deforestation in Liberia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and other
      parts of the globe also produces greenhouse gases. During the 11 days
      of the conference an estimated 745 thousand acres of forest were lost.

      Last year, international aid organizations and governments focused
      much of their Africa-related diplomacy on addressing impoverishment,
      with the goal of cutting extreme poverty in half by 2015 through debt
      cancellation and more money to fight diseases like HIV/AIDS and
      tuberculosis. Unfortunately, a discussion of climate change as a major
      driver of impoverishment—now and in the future—was absent from those
      conversations about the African continent.

      As Kenyan Environment Minister Kivutha Kibwana stated at last month's
      U.N. Climate Change meeting:

      We face a genuine danger that recent gains in poverty reduction
      will be thrown into reverse in coming decades, particularly for the
      poorest communities on the continent of Africa.

      Yet, despite the overwhelming evidence that climate change is
      occurring and will result in more intense hurricanes and mudslides
      that will kill, injure and displace thousands of people, the
      international community still cannot agree on—or even begin to
      discuss—how to achieve the needed cuts in greenhouse gas emissions.

      In Nairobi, the nations most at risk from climate change did not get
      strong commitments from the world's richest nations to seriously
      confront global warming. Rich nations refused to make commitments,
      thus ignoring the evidence presented that demonstrated that in order
      to meet the needs of the most vulnerable people, many of whom live on
      the African continent, the leaders of the world's richest nations (and
      biggest polluters) need to take more drastic and timely actions.

      The course we must take is fairly clear. With the highest
      greenhouse-gas emissions in the world, the United States must take a
      leadership role in cutting emissions and changing course on energy
      use. The state of California recently made commitment to cut emissions
      by 80 percent by 2050, which is the type of commitment the U.S. will
      need to make in order to avert what scientists call "dangerous"
      climate change.

      To avert this dangerous change, substantial reductions in our energy
      consumption and a shift in energy sources to renewable energy are
      necessary. Significant gains can be made with more energy-efficient
      technologies, like plug-in hybrid cars, more efficient industrial
      processes and energy-efficient appliances. Incentives and policies
      need to be put in place to shift energy supplies to sources like wind
      power, solar power, geothermal energy and certain biofuels made from
      sustainable sources. If we don't achieve these changes, the people on
      the African continent will suffer the worst.



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