There is a lot of press about climate change, but perhaps not enough focusing on its most awful irony: people who have the smallest “carbon footprint” and thus have done the least to cause global warming—poor Africans—will likely be the most affected. The impact of climate change is already being felt in Africa, from ever-worsening public health to increasing armed conflicts between groups fighting over scarce resources. In this blog, I’ve put together some links about how climate change is worsening the already dire situation of Africa’s poorest, including many in rural and urban Kenya.
A good overview of climate change in the developing world can be found at the UN Habitat website. As UN Habitat reminds us, millions of urban poor in the developing world “live in potential death traps: huge, densely populated slums located on fault lines or in flood-prone areas.” Climate change renders these people even more vulnerable to disaster. And as climate change makes rural life more and more untenable, those slums are likely to swell even further with migrants from the countryside.
The rise in the world’s temperatures is also driving an increase in the spread of malaria, both in the slums (including Kibera) and in rural areas where mosquitoes were previously not a problem. The highlands around Mount Kenya are traditionally known for their cool temperatures and correspondingly low rates of malaria. But with global warming on the rise, malaria has become a major public health issue there. Watch this video to learn more.
The Mau Forest is Kenya’s most important water catchment area. Its degradation by irregular settlements, logging and charcoal burning, and increased agriculture is likely to cause an unprecedented water crisis and render the environment unable to absorb climate change. The exploitation of the Mau Forest has become a hot-button political issue in Kenya, with controversial evictions of “illegal” settlers. Read more about the importance and complexities of the Mau Forest here.
The north of Kenya is populated by semi-nomadic tribes who depend on Lake Turkana for survival. As a result of climate change, the lake has receded and droughts have become more regular. This scarcity of resources has pitted tribe against tribe in armed conflicts along the Kenya/Ethiopia border. Watch this video to learn about how climate change is driving war and displacement in northern Kenya.
And what is being done to help the poor “adapt” to the reality of a world 4 degrees warmer? The richest countries’ lack of commitment to helping the most vulnerable is a sadly familiar story, as described here. Civil society groups, such as the NGO Practical Action, are hoping to stimulate engagement in the developed world and promote inclusion of vulnerable groups in strategy formation for climate change adaptation. Read their briefing paper here.