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The East African : December 30th 2013
VI The EastAfrican MAGAZINE DECEMBER 28, 2013 - JANUARY 3, 2014 cove≥ sto≥y Climate change now th≥eatens Ken W hen Dr Helida Oyieko was working on her doctorate thesis on marine issues in the 1990s The town of Madinaty, 40km east of Cairo, experiences Egypt’s first snowfall in 112 years on December 13. Climate change is causing extreme weather patterns around the world. Picture: AFP in Malindi, the town’s famous landmark 15th century Vasco da Gama’s pillar was a kilometre away during low tide. Now waves have worn away the pillar and it has cracked. “In my lifetime, I am seeing the effects of climate change,” said Dr Oyieke at the recently concluded National Museums of Kenya (NMK) biannual science conference titled “Museum Research and Climate Change.” Since the start of the Industrial Revolution in 18th century Europe, world global temperatures have been steadily rising mainly due to human activities, with harsh consequences. “When global temperatures rise, the sea level rises, because of ice blocks melting. So when people say that the Vasco da Gama pillar is sinking, that’s not true. It’s the water level rising. That’s our heritage going underwater,” said Dr Oyieke. For many, climate change is a dis- tant concept that doesn’t affect their daily lives — but there’s increasing evidence that climate change affects everyone. One of the consequences of climate change is global warming. Global warming and climate change refer to an increase in average global temperatures. Natural events and human activities are believed to be contributing to an increase in average global temperatures. This is caused primarily by increases in greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide. The Least Developed Countries (LDCs) according to the Climate Change Value Index, are the hardest hit, and hence suffer the greatest loss of biodiversity. Ironically LDCs — mostly African, South American and some Asian countries are not the major polluters — the developed world and emerging economies like China and India are. However, waiting for developed countries to take action could take a while, so LDCs have to be proactive. According to the species extinction model, if the rise in global temperature exceeds 3.5 degree centigrade, 40 to 50 per cent of species will be extinct — and these include the elephant, rhino and panda — something that China should note. “Since species are disappearing rapidly due to climate change, taxonomy plays an important role in documenting change,” said Dr Mutuku Musili, presenting his paper on the role of taxonomy in climate change and biodiversity. “It’s important that we give a name to all species. That’s the role of taxonomy. Without a name, there’s no identity.” The issue of identity and biodiver- sity threatened by climate change isn’t limited to iconic pillars and big wildlife; it includes the basis of human survival — food. “Medicinal and food plants cater for three basic human interests,” Nyamolo Walter from NMK’s botanic garden said. “Health, income and cultural identity. “Research shows that 80 per cent of the African population uses traditional medicine. Worldwide, there are up to 70,000 plant species used as medicine. We’re now seeing plant species declining, which calls for in-situ conservation complemented by ex-situ conservation. The Nairobi Botanic Garden champions plant genetic diversity, which calls for sustainable use of plants, advocacy and awareness.” Unfortunately the worst hit in this gamut of climate change/global warming will be the people living in exceeds 3.5 degree centigrade, 40 to 50 per cent of species will be extinct.” ‘‘ Top, the future of elephants is threatened by climate chan Vasco da Gama pillar in Malindi, Kenya. The rise in global t has led to a rise in ocean levels; waves from the sea have b the pillar. Pictures: File areas where poverty levels are the highest. “The poverty index in Tana River If the global temperature Delta is 76.9 per cent in an area that covers 38,437 square kilometres with 240,000 people,” said Domonic Mumbo of Nature Kenya in his presentation entitled “Promoting Ecosystem-based Climate Change Adaptation at Community Level — case study of Tana River Delta.” It’s a fragile ecosystem where water and land are the two most important natural resources, over which the pastoral and fishing communities fight during lean times. ng te be “The poverty lev very low capacity to change. It calls for n terprises. The Tana D is fertile and can be said Mumbo. Fortun is a tourist destina acres have been prot sar Site (a wetland importance) since S “Biodiversity mon enhanced managem ness and policy ma Fred Baraza, the m monitoring importa Nature Kenya.
December 23rd 2013
January 6th 2014