So then, what’s this about climate change?

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Alex Nxumalo

The world is reaching the tipping point beyond which climate change may become irreversible. If this happens, we risk denying present and future generations the right to a healthy and sustainable planet – the whole of humanity stands to lose.” -Kofi Annan, Former Secretary-General of UN

An article which was published in the Times of Eswatini recently caught my eye. It was headlined, “Eswatini’s E16 trillion climate action costs..”

A very astounding mention was made in the article to the effect that the country’s “response to climate change could cost E16 trillion…”

What? Really? I could not help, but exclaim to myself in shock! Where in the world would such a puny, struggling, Third World, developing country like ours facing so many challenges politically, and socioeconomically, source out such an inordinate, and exorbitant amount of funds?

Not when on the one hand, as a country, we are struggling to fund the education of our children through scholarships, and failing to pay tertiary students allowances timeously. On the other hand, as country, we are reluctant to pay a minimum wage to the country’s workforce in the face of escalating, food, and other day to day, life’s basic commodities. We have challenges in the form of a lack of political will to buy crucial drugs for our hospitals, as well as tackling a plethora of other challenges!

We are told that the country “submitted its updated National Determined Contribution (NDC) in October 2021, which estimated its targeted reduction of economy wide greenhouses gas emissions by five percent at US$950 million, the equivalent of E16 trillion.”. For those who might baffled by what nunu is the NDC, let me explain..It is a non-binding national plan highlighting climate change mitigation, including climate-related targets for greenhouse gas emission reductions.

Climate change is a very fascinating subject, and I can bet my last dime that a few of us in the country have an inkling of what this climate change, nunu is; what causes it, and what are its effects on the people, environment, nationally, and globally, and finally, how we can either prevent it, reduce or lessen its effects both as individuals, and nationally. It is a subject that interests yours truly. Many global governments, as well as private entities are deeply committed to reducing the effects of climate change.

I hope by the time the reader finishes reading the article, he or she will be in a better position to understand what climate change involves, as well as how you, me and many of us in the country can help reduce any contributing factors to this most perplexing, and important phenomenon.

Artists paint a mural on a a wall in Glasgow which hosted the COP26 UN Climate Summit in 2021 (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

What is climate change?

In simpler terms, the United Nations defines climate change as, “referring to long-term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns. These shifts may be natural, but since the 1800s, human activities have been the main driver of climate change, primarily due to the burning of fossil fuels (like coal, oil, and gas) which produces heat-trapping gases.”

What, in a nutshell, causes climate change?

According to the United Nations, “As greenhouse gas emissions blanket the Earth, they trap the sun’s heat. This leads to global warming and climate change. The world is now warming faster than at any point in recorded history…”

Global warming, refers to, “the gradual increase in the overall temperature of the earth’s atmosphere generally attributed to the greenhouse effect caused by increased levels of carbon dioxide, chlorofluorocarbons, and other pollutants..”

The reader might be baffled by what “greenhouse” gases are. Let’s define “greenhouse” This refers to, “a relatively permanent enclosed construction over a plot of land, having a roof and usually windows and often with more than one level, used for any of a wide variety of activities, for example, in which the temperature is maintained within a desired range, used for cultivating tender plants or growing plants out of season…”

How are these greenhouse gases produced from plants grown in greenhouses?

From biology lessons which I can barely recall, way back during my schooling days in the 70’s, many decades ago, plants use photosynthesis to capture carbon dioxide and then release half of it into the atmosphere through respiration. Plants also release oxygen into the atmosphere through photosynthesis….

A simple online search reveals that, “greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and certain synthetic chemicals, trap some of the Earth’s outgoing energy, thus retaining heat in the atmosphere.”

Coming to some of the causes of climate changes.. Please do remember that I said earlier on, that, human activities have been the main driver of climate changes. What are the examples of some of these activities?

1. It is said, that “generating power is one of the main causes of climate change. Generating electricity and heat by burning “fossil fuels (fossils, here, is a hydrocarbon-containing material formed naturally in the earth’s crust from the remains of dead plants and animals that is extracted and burned as a fuel) causes a large chunk of global emissions. Most electricity is still produced from fossil fuels; only about a quarter comes from wind, solar, and other renewable sources.

“The main fossil fuels are coal, crude oil and natural gas, which causes a large chunk of global emissions. Most electricity is still produced from fossil fuels; only about a quarter comes from wind, solar, and other renewable sources..”

Fortunately, in our country, Swaziland, we do not produce electricity through use of fossil fuels like coal (not yet!). For now, our power stations use water to generate electricity.

Coal mines and thermal power plants in Mpumalanga – one of the most polluted areas in the world

2. “Another contributory cause of climate change is, unfortunately, the manufacturing of goods.. These goods are essential to developing countries, and offer much-needed, employment to throngs of people.”

It is said that, “manufacturing of say, cement, iron, steel, electronics, plastics, clothes, and other goods, and other industrial processes also release gases. Mining and other industrial processes produce emissions, mostly from burning fossil fuels to produce energy..

3. One other cause of climate change is something we do in our country, without thinking about its consequences – cutting down forests.

According to the United Nations (UN), “cutting down forests to create farms or pastures, or for other reasons, causes emissions, since trees, when they are cut, release the carbon they have been storing. Since forests absorb carbon dioxide, destroying them also limits nature’s ability to keep emissions out of the atmosphere”

In the country, we cut forests and use the product as firewood, either to sell to people who own businesses like “shisanyama” butchery outlets, and also use firewood in our homes to warm us in winter, through fireplaces.

4. This one, other cause of climate change, is the use of one of the most crucial any nation cannot do without – transportation!

“Most cars, trucks, ships, and planes run on fossil fuels. That makes transportation a major contributor of greenhouse gases, especially carbon-dioxide emissions. Road vehicles account for the largest part, but emissions from ships and planes continue to grow.

I have this one, fleeting thought – burning of tires during political or labour protests! The smoke emitted during such escapades, irrespective of how minimal or miniscule, definitely contributes to global warming…

5. Producing food – It is said that, “producing food requires energy to run farm equipment or fishing boats, usually with fossil fuels like petrol, diesel, etc. Growing crops can also cause emissions, like when using fertilizers and manure. Cattle produce methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. And emissions also come from packaging and distributing food.”

As we have seen above, the causes of climate change are mostly due to day to day, human activities we perform everyday in this country, and globally.

Let’s now explore this crunch question – what are some of the key effects of global warming which leads to climate changes?

We have witnessed baffling and perplexing, weather pattern changes not only in the country, but globally as well. In the country, we have been puzzled by extremely warmer temperatures even in places like Mbabane, which is usually a highveld region. Perplexing, torrential rains even in winter have baffled many of us. The month of July is usually a windy month, but in the last couple of years or so, such windy conditions have even been experienced during the month of August…! Could this be due to global warming? Let’s read, below..

“Warmer temperatures over time are changing weather patterns and disrupting the usual balance of nature. This poses many risks to human beings and all other forms of life on Earth…

Now, read this, dear reader. It might shock you!

(a) Global warming and Hotter temperatures..

“Nearly all land areas are seeing more hot days and heat waves; 2020 was one of the hottest years on record. Higher temperatures increase heat-related illnesses and can make it more difficult to work and move around. Wildfires start more easily and spread more rapidly when conditions are hotter…”

We have witnessed, and heard of some people in the country collapsing due to excessively high temperatures. People suffering from ailments like hypertension (high blood pressure) are more to prone to being affected by hotter temperatures which might be caused by global warming.

(b) More severe storms – changes in temperature cause changes in rainfall. This results in more severe and frequent storms. They cause flooding and landslides, destroying homes and communities, and costing billions of dollars (Emangeni, in our case).

Places like Mbabane, have in the past experienced frightening flooding which affected business centres like retail shops, offices, where goods were soaked in water, costing hundreds of thousands in damages.

(c) Increased droughts – water is becoming scarcer in more regions. Droughts can stir destructive sand and dust storms that can move billions of tons of sand across continents. Deserts are expanding, reducing land for growing food. Many people now face the threat of not having enough water on a regular basis.

(d) Not enough food – changes in climate and increases in extreme weather events are among the reasons behind a global rise in hunger and poor nutrition. Fisheries, crops, and livestock may be destroyed or become less productive. Heat stress can diminish water and grasslands for grazing.

Finally, actions to take: preventative actions – are imperative for all of us to take, and, at least, try to reduce human activities that contribute to global warming. If we are to save this planet, reduce poverty, illnesses, as well as numerous, other effects of climate change, we need to be committed in taking action. Lena, yindzaba yetfu sonkhe, ma-Swati akitsi…

Let us all endeavour to:

(1) Use less energy by lowering your heating and cooling, switching to LED light bulbs and energy-efficient electric appliances, washing your laundry with cold water, or hanging things to dry instead of using a dryer.

(2) Walk, bike, or take public transport – the world’s roadways are clogged with vehicles, most of them burning diesel or gasoline. Walking or riding a bike instead of driving will reduce greenhouse gas emissions — and help your health and fitness. For longer distances, consider taking a train or bus. And carpool whenever possible.”

Tall order? No! We can do it, ma-Swati akitsi. Let us try waking up early, walk from, say, from Manzini to Matsapa on our way to work, or to do personal errands, leaving our cars behind, since these emit fumes from car exhaust systems. If your skorokoro emits clouds of dark, exhaust system fumes – park it at home, and take a bus or kombi to work..

This one will shock you..Did you know that it is important to:

(3) Throw away less food – When you throw food away, you’re also wasting the resources and energy that were used to grow, produce, package, and transport it. And when food rots in a landfill, it produces methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. So use what you buy and compost any leftovers…

Finally, it is important that those in our country who know about the effects of global warming, and what climate change is all about, write (like I am doing) to educate the population about such; involve those who might not know about this climate change phenomenon.

Let us all endeavour to talk to our friends and family, with those we interact with, and make sure our representatives in government, the private sector, etc., are making good decisions..

Wishing you all a blessed day. Peace! Shalom!

Photo by Akil Mazumder on