Over the past 50-60 years, there has been a build up of greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere composed of carbon dioxide, methane and water vapor as a result of rapid industrialization in the world. As a result of these concentrations, the green house effects emerged thereby reflecting back heat radiation to the earth.
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The largest contributory gas to the greenhouse effects is the burning of fossil fuel which constitutes approximately 70% of the greenhouse gasses hence causing what is referred to as global warming. However, the most important question is; what are the immediate and long term effects of global warming especially to the society.
In this research paper, I will analyze both the long term and short term effects of global warming to the society and environment with emphasizes placed on Africa as a continent. However, to be able to fully derive the effects of global warming, it would be necessary to discuss the causes of global warming and from there, derive its effects.
According to environmentalists and other nature conservatives, Africa would be the worst hit continent by the effects of global warming despite emitting less greenhouse gases. This is because; there is already food crisis in most parts of Africa with approximately 80 million people starving in Sub-Saharan Africa according to World Bank report of 2007.
Therefore, global warming whose main characteristic is intense heat or extreme cold weather would result into drought or floods respectively which would precipitate the hunger problem in Africa thus causing more death than in any other continent in the world.
Causes of Global warming
The main cause of global warming is the greenhouse emission. The greenhouse gases constitute of water vapor, Carbon dioxide, methane, ozone, and oxide among other gases. These gases have various contributions towards the greenhouse effects for example; carbon dioxide contributes approximately 10-26% of greenhouse effects which leads to global warming.
The concentration of these gases especially Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere act to reflect heat from the earth thus preventing the heat from the earth from being discharged into the space and as a result, the heat is discharged back to the earth thus heating up the earth. The chart below illustrates the emission of greenhouse gases by sector which as a result contributes to global warming.
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As can be seen from the above pie charts, carbon dioxide emission constitutes the greatest percentage of greenhouse gases being emitted thus causing global warming.
Effects of global warming
Global warming has a variety of effects ranging from climate change to economic effects. In this paper, I will discuss the effects of global warming especially to the continent of Africa. It should be noted that though Africa produces the least amount of fossil gases, it is the most vulnerable continent to suffer from the effects of global warming than any other continent.
This is because; most of the governments in less developed countries especially Africa have little technical how of dealing with this problem and in most cases rely on the developed countries which are the main emitters of these gases to address the issue.
It is estimated that by the year 2030, the temperature in Africa would have increased by 2.5oC thereby endangering many water bodies, national parks, and other essential biodiversity. The effects are discussed further in the following paragraph (Hastenrath 448).
Global warming and Climate change
Many scientists and environmentalists have predicted that around 2030, if the global warming persists, many water bodies such as rivers and lakes in Africa would dry up. This is attributed to the fact that global warming has decreased the levels of rainfall on the continent and thus affecting the rural population that typically depends on water for various uses.
It is estimated that approximately 250 million people in Africa are at risk of suffering from the climatic change effects caused by global warming.
The climatic change occurs in form of change in weather which may imply high temperatures at certain periods of the year thus causing drought or may be in form of low temperature with high rainfall thus causing floods which destroys various plantation. This may also result into erosion of soil and as a result rendering soil infertile for crop use (low 29).
According to research work published in Science Express by Maarten de Wit, a Geologist in South Africa, he estimated that rainfall would reduce by approximately 20% by the year 2060 in most parts of South and North Africa.
According to Maarten research, if the rainfall levels fall by 20% as a result of global warming, all rivers flowing in the south would dry up hence affecting water supply totally in countries such as Botswana. In his analysis using drainage density models, he found out that most rivers that depend on rainfall are the most vulnerable to climate change and this constitute 25-70% of rivers in Africa.
In his results, he found out that, currently most rivers in Africa collect approximately 600 millimeters of rainfall; however, with the change in climate and reduction in rainfall as a result of global warming, these rivers would collect approximately 550 milliliters.
As global warming intensify, he estimated that the levels of rainfall would fall to very small levels that would reduce the drainage of these rivers hence causing them to dry up.
Considering the fact that Africa fully depends on surface water, its extinction would imply trouble for most countries that may result into heavy expenditure on water and in circumstances where the government would not be able to provide for this precious commodity, death would be the end result.
Global warming and agriculture
Global warming would tend to affect agricultural production levels in Africa if not checked. It should be noted that most African countries rely on rain-fed agriculture and further still, agricultural products acts as the biggest contributor to the Gross Domestic Product of various Africa countries.
With the effects of global warming beginning to show up, areas that initially had two seasons of rains now have two while those which had two now have only one season. This has affected the agricultural output being realized out of farming since the region is either being faced by droughts or floods which in the long run restrain farming activities.
For example, Tanzania has already reported a 33% decline in maize production due to changes in seasons and the impacts is expected to rise with increasing global warming.
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Given the fact that the continent is already faced with acute food shortage despite little effects from global warming, changes in climate would worsen the situation especially in semi-desert and desert areas. As a result, the victims of malnutrition would increase and the number of poverty related case would also surge significantly (Cline 84).
Initially, it was argued that global warming would bring about increase in agricultural production due to the increase in Carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is an element that enhances photosynthesis thus its availability in abundance was projected to have a positive effect on agriculture. In deed, in some countries outside Africa such as Iceland, the increase in Carbon dioxide has increased on agricultural output.
However, in Africa, global warming has never had positive effect on agriculture and is not expected to have any positive effect. Shortage in agricultural produce in Africa would most likely results into violence such as the one being witnessed in Sudan.
According to United Nation Economic Program, the violence being witnessed is as a result of long term effects of drought fuel with increasing food shortage and lack of government commitment into ending the poverty situation. If the global warming effects persist into the future, the world should expect such conflicts as those in Sudan to spread to most countries in Africa (Thomas 1218).
Global warming and tourism
Tourism especially in Africa is associated with its magnificent ecosystem that is able to sustain various wild life animals. With the effects of global warming, tourism activities are deemed to reduce significantly.
In most African countries for example Kenya and Tanzania, tourism is the second most contributory variable in their Gross Domestic Product after agriculture and acts as source of earning foreign exchange for the countries. However, with the effects of global warming becoming clearer, these countries are loosing ground on their efforts to attract more tourists who contributes to the development of these countries.
Taking an example of Kenya, due to the changing climates in the recent past, Tsavo Park the leading national park in Kenya has begun to succumb to the drought effects resulting into dying of some animals such as Zebra, Giraffes and Antelopes which depends on vegetation for survival.
Further still, due to drying up of Lake Nakuru in Kenya, the numerous Flamingos that used to act as a source of tourism attraction are beginning to die while others are migrating there by reducing tourism activities in that area.
Still in Kenya, one of the Seven Wonders of the World sites which involve migration of wild beast from Serengeti in Tanzania to Maasai Mara in Kenya is threaten with extinction due to dying up of Mau River that sustain these migration (Ojoo-Massawa, Ministry of Environment-Kenya).
Global warming and development
Africa is faced with a very challenging situation of tackling global warming due to its undeveloped nature. This is attributed to lack of the required resources to handle this situation and as a result, global warming puts a further restrain in the development efforts of African countries.
Consequently, the economic growth of these countries is negatively affected resulting into more poverty and malnutrition. In the long run, a vicious cycle of poverty would be created that would make most African countries to continue relying on foreign aid thus further restraining economic growth and development.
According to Simm (04), the increased effects of global warming in less developed countries especially Africa would render them impossible of achieving the Millennium Development Goal by the year 2015 as stipulated by United Nation. Consequently, the population would be subjected to diseases, hunger, illiteracy and mortality deaths.
Global warming and Health
Global warming is associated with intense heat on the earth surface hence high temperatures. This high temperature is hazardous especially to people suffering from heart diseases.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, there are already high temperatures and therefore, additional temperature as a result of global warming would further increase the work of cardiovascular system in maintaining the body temperature of various people having heart problems thus making them vulnerable to death.
Furthermore, patients with diseases such as asthma would be exposed to death as a result of very cold weather. Therefore both extreme ends of temperature would have negative impact on the health status of various individual.
High prevalence of various diseases in Africa such as Malaria and HIV/AIDS are expected to increase with the surge in the effects of global warming. According to World Health Organization, more deaths are expected to be recorded as a result of changes in climate especially in less developed countries where adaptively rate of most people are very weak.
From the observation, it is clear that Africa would suffer most from the effects of global warming due to its in ability to cushion itself from the effects. Other less developed countries would also suffer the effects of these changes put researchers have indicated that African countries would carry the greatest burden.
This is ironical since Africa produces the least fossil gas emission among all the continents yet it is the one that would be affected the most. However, it is not too late to cushion itself from the negative effects of global warming. What is required at the moment is commitment by the various governments in Africa in combating this phenomenon.
Among the solution that can be adopted by these government is discouraging deforestation and in its place promote tree planting. As a result, the rainy season would be maintained thus eliminating the possibility of poverty caused by inadequate food.
Though this may prove a hard nut to crash due to the need for industrialization by most African countries, it is an inevitable thing if Africa is to be able to deal with long term effects of global warming. There are various conventions that have been made to address the global warming effects for example, the Kyoto Protocol.
Despite these conventions suggesting various solutions to global warming, the main solution would be each country’s commitment in eliminating it. However, this should begin with countries that emit a lot of gas into the atmosphere such as China and Japan.
Appel, Adrianne. Global Warming May Dry Up Africa’s Rivers, Study Suggests. National Geographic News 3 March 2006.
Cline, William R. Global warming and agriculture: impact estimates by country Washington D.C: Peterson Institute, 2007 pp 84-98.
Croze, Harvey. Africa for Kids: Exploring a Vibrant Continent, 19 Activities. Chicago Review Press, 2006.
Hastenrath, Climate dynamics of the tropics. Netherlands: Kluwer Academic Publishers Dordrecht, 1991 pp 488 -496.
Low, Pak S. Climate Change and Africa. London: Cambridge University Press, 2005 pp 29-50.
Kerr, Richard A. Global Warming: How Urgent Is Climate Change? Science 318 no. 5854 (2007): 1230 – 1231.
Ojoo-Massawa, Emily. Understanding and Responding to Climate Change. Kenyan Ministry of Environment and Mineral resources.
Simms, Andrew, et al. Africa: up in smoke? New Economics Foundation, International Institute for Environment and Development. London: Oxfam, 2005 pp 04-10.
Thomas, David S., Knight, Melanie and Wigg, Giles F. S. Remobilization of southern African desert dune systems by twenty-first century global warming. Nature 435 (2005): 1218-1221
Vidal, John. In the land where life is on hold. The Guardian. 2005