Climate change literacy still low in Africa among many people

04Sep 2019
Editor
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
Climate change literacy still low in Africa among many people

Climate change occurs when changes in Earth's climate system result in new weather patterns that last for at least a few decades, and maybe for millions of years.

The climate system comprises five interacting parts, the atmosphere (air), hydrosphere (water), cryosphere (ice and permafrost), biosphere (living things), and lithosphere (earth's crust and upper mantle). The climate system receives nearly all of its energy from the sun, with a relatively tiny amount from earth's interior.

The climate system also gives off energy to outer space. The balance of incoming and outgoing energy, and the passage of the energy through the climate system, determines Earth's energy budget. When the incoming energy is greater than the outgoing energy, earth's energy budget is positive and the climate system is warming. If more energy goes out, the energy budget is negative and earth experiences cooling.

Despite the fact that Africa bears the brunt when it comes to erratic global weather patterns, many people are still unfamiliar with the climate change phenomenon, a new survey reveals.

The recent havoc caused by tropical cyclone Idai which struck the southern African countries of Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi is a grim reminder that Africa remains the most vulnerable continent as far as climate change mitigation is concerned.

A new survey released by Afrobarometer paints a bleak picture of how agriculture conditions are worsening due to delayed rainfall, decreasing quality of life and most surprising of all, little or no knowledge at all about the impact of climate change.

The research discovered that out of the 34 African countries surveyed, respondents in 30 countries said agricultural production had greatly declined as a result of drought over the past decade.

"Farmers in Uganda have been waiting endlessly for rain, and South Africa has experienced excessive flooding," Gugu Nonjinge, Afrobarometer Communications Coordinator for Southern Africa, told DW. "These [unusual weather patterns] shows long term changes in temperatures that ultimately affect rainfall patterns and the ability for Africa as a whole to produce food."

In the survey, 'climate change literacy' was described as the perception that the respondent knows about climate change, he or she links it to negative changing weather patterns and recognizes that human activity plays a huge role in climate change due to greenhouse emission.

Whereas 58 per cent of Africans said they had heard about climate change, four in ten admitted that they had never heard of the term before.

The majority who knew and understood what climate change is said changing weather patters had made life worse in their respective countries. "Climate change is defining the development challenge of our time in Africa," Afrobarometer's spokesperson Nonjinge said.

"Our continent is the most vulnerable to the consequences of climate change." Interestingly, the survey found out that key issues such as water scarcity, food security and agriculture which were raised by those being interviewed are directly connected to climate change.

Africa is a signatory to several international agreements such as the Kyoto Protocol and the 2016 Paris Agreement on Climate Change. These global pacts seek to fight and reverse the effects of climate change.

The Afrobarometer survey on climate change recommends that African governments, policymakers and activists, to create more awareness especially among those with little knowledge about climate change. The report concludes that this will help build an informed population that understands climate change threats and will support coordinated government and international action.