Climate change: shifting the paradigm

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There’s an old saying that ‘We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children’.

Thus, each and every one of us has a responsibility towards the planet to ensure that future generations also experience the diversity of the environment and reap the benefits and abundance of natural resources.

However, we have a common problem that is persistently growing and perpetuated by our activities, and that is human induced climate change. So, what we do individually and collectively as human beings has an effect on the lives and environment of other animal species with whom we share the planet.

Most people would pose the question on what climate change is, former and current students and learners remember it as a topic from geography class focusing on the discussion of global warming and the greenhouse effect amongst other things.

Some may see it as a foreign issue limited to scientists, students, and politicians. Other people also register it as modern-day political rhetoric for international and global problems without having the fundamental and substantial understanding of its adverse impacts.

In fact, most people will even question if it is really anthropogenic, or part of the cyclical nature of the planets temperature pattern. Rightfully so, given that there exists a gap between those with knowledge on climate change and those without.

Institutions with the knowledge tend to rotate the information unintendedly within a small circle from academics to academics and research institutions to policy makers.

Yet, you do not need to be an environmentalist, climate scientist, researcher, professor, politician or a student studying natural resource management and or other environment-related subjects to care about and take action on climate change.

The politicisation and academic isolation of the subject has left the most important group out of the solutions, and that is you (society), the people on the ground, who can make a practical difference in combating climate change.

According to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) 2014-2016 were the warmest years on record since 1880, while 2017 is predicted to have a 99.9% chance probability of recording warmer surface and atmospheric temperatures.

A warmer temperature increases the rate of evaporation and the more water vapour we have in the atmosphere the more hospitable it becomes to other gasses such as carbon dioxide and methane further as we know water is a good conductor of heat. Warmer ocean water also drives floods, hurricanes and tornadoes.

In a country, such as Namibia, with a high variable climate, it means climate change is expanding the natural variability and it becomes that much more intense and difficult to anticipate and prepare. With warmer waters the Benguela current that marine life depend on for survival will be negatively affected and we will see a reduction of fish stocks and that affects the fishing industry.

Yet, climate change is not only limited to dry weather, such as drought or extreme cold events. That’s why global warming is only a part of it and deals with the increasing surface temperature since recorded models because if it were the only thing then those experiencing snow should be qualified as not impacted by climate change.

One part of the world is cold today while the other is warm tomorrow anthropogenic climate change makes them intense and variable by increasing the intensity and predictability of its phenomenon, while also introducing new weather climate conditions not common in those areas.

The impacts of climate change are mostly only being felt now in our generation and are predicted to get worse through climate models and other methods of environmental intelligence, so as our resources decrease so should our habits of consumption become more conservative.

In times like this we should be inspired by nature and apply biomimicry, because as Leonardo Da Vinci said: “Nature always employs the most sufficient means to achieve her ends.”

We must thus transition our industries into circular economies, where no waste is produced but becomes an input product for another. Water being a scarce resource in the driest country south of sub-Saharan Africa (Namibia) should become our “liquid diamond” and treated with utmost care.

Improve on waste management at community and household levels, because there is no such thing as throwing away rubbish, unless you use the dustbin otherwise it ends up somewhere mostly in landfills and oceans. That is why we have recycling systems and making use of them is one of your downstream ways of taking action.

Climate change has been studied and debated for decades and we can differ on the science and politics about whether it is human-induced or not. We may have differences, but we all unanimously agree on the solutions.

A practical and perfect example I always use is that we all do not understand the science behind the Ribonucleic acid (RNA), DNA, genomes, coding and integration of HIV/AIDS cells. Yet, we all understand the benefits of protection or abstinence and consequences thereof.

So, in order to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 13 on Climate Action, and interlinked Agenda 2063 aspirations let us not view climate change from a niche perspective, but focus on the solutions we need to start taking action on and the issue becomes part of the value system we share: including human rights, peace, housing needs, democracy, employment, education and others.

* Deon Mandume Shekuza is a youth advocate and regional facilitator of the International Youth Climate Movement. He is a member of the Bottom Lining Team of YOUNGO to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

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