The Daily Monitor of February 20, 2023, reported Finance minister Matia Kasaija saying, “Climate change is real and deadly, our people are doing things ignorantly and they damage the environment.”
That is true. Climate change is the greatest threat to life on earth. United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) defines climate change to mean a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods.
Climate change is both real and deadly though some people are still not giving it the urgent treatment it merits. According to UNFCC, a century of rising greenhouse gas emissions must end by 2025 to keep global heating under 1.5 degrees celsius as envisaged by the Paris Agreement or severe impacts will escalate, hurting billions of people.
At the World Economic Forum in January 2021, it was noted that the speed and scale of the response to Covid-19 by governments, businesses and individuals provides hope that we can react to the climate change crisis in a similarly decisive manner.
However, history tells us that humans do not react to slow-moving and distant threats. Our evolution has selected the “fight or flight” instinct to deal with environmental change; so, rather like the metaphor of the frog in boiling water, we tend to react too little and too late to gradual change. Instead of fighting climate change, some people are in the flight mode of detachment or denial.
Climate change is a euphemism for climate catastrophe. According to World Bank statistics, the average temperatures in Uganda have been increasing at a rate of 0.28 degrees celsius per decade, and daily temperature observations show significantly increasing amounts of hot days and nights every year.
Uganda’s climate is mostly tropical with regular rainfall and sunshine patterns. However, due to the climate crisis, the seasons have changed, with the rainy season becoming more variable in length and droughts more predominant, especially in eastern and northern Uganda.
The climate is caused by the accumulation of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping greenhouse gases into the atmosphere due to mainly the use of fossil fuels like oil, burning of coal and natural gas.
As greenhouse gas emissions blanket the earth, they trap the sun’s heat. This leads to global warming and climate change. As greenhouse gas concentrations rise, so does the global surface temperature.
The government is partly to blame for weakening the battle against climate hell by issuing licenses to investors like Hoima Sugar Limited to change the land use of forest areas to sugarcane growing. Yet, forests are major carbon sinks, climate regulators and are essential for human health, tourism, green growth, biodiversity, circular economy and sustainable development.
If forests are cleared, or even disturbed, they release carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases leading to global warming and climate change.
According to World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), forest loss and damage is the cause of around 10 per cent of global warming. There is simply no way we can fight the climate crisis if we don’t stop deforestation. That is why it was refreshing to see National Environment Management Authority (Nema) order Hoima Sugar Limited to stop further forest degradation in September 2022.
Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary general, has rightly warned – agreeing with scientists – that it is now or never to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees.
Humanity is at a critical juncture where all of us in schools, churches, government, civil society, media, universities must pick up such tools as tree planting, climate education and switching to renewals among others and battle the climate emergency for people and the planet. It is code red for humanity.
The author is a program officer, The Environment Shield Limited