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Let’s talk about climate change

[By Eng, Chisakula Kaputu]

To get to understand what climate change really is, one needs to first appreciate what climate is.

Here we are taking the simple definition that Climate is the long-term average of weather, typically averaged over a period of 30 years. In contrast, weather is the state of the atmosphere at any given time (No need to beat ourselves too much about what climate is by definition, let us focus on what we have all been observing and often drawn into debate about, climate change).

There has been and continues to be a lot of debate and deliberation on climate change or changing of climate. So what is this climate change? Climate change is basically global warming (or warming up of the globe/ earth). It is the consequence of what is known as the “greenhouse effect” attributed to human activities. So now I must also define “greenhouse effect”, right? Seen those white plastic sheet structures erected at farms wherein crop of some sort is grown? That exploits the greenhouse effect! Still want the definition?

Well, greenhouse effect is the warming effect resulting from trapped heat within the earth’s atmosphere due to the excessive gases emitted into the atmosphere. These gases are aptly called greenhouse gases (GHG). Simply, GHGs are gases that emit and absorb heat and include gases such as water vapour (H2O), carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O) and ozone (O3) and they are essential to retaining a habitable earth temperature which without the GHGs could have been in the negative ranges. Problem now is that the increasing concentrations of these GHGs is causing the earth to heat up more than it should.

GHGs are mostly emitted from stationary energy, transport, fugitive sources, loss of vegetation through land clearing & deforestation, animal agriculture, etc. The grand plan is to keep these GHG concentrations in the atmosphere to less than 475ppm in order to keep temperature rise under 2°C. Human existence has in the last 200 years since the advent of the Industrial Age had adverse effects on atmospheric CO2-equivalent concentrations; these need to be capped!

So if climate change or global warming is a consequence of our human activities, then all humans are responsible for it, right? As a matter of fact, YES! We are all responsible except that the degree of liability and responsibility varies from human to human, country to country, region to region. But, irrespective of who the bigger culprit is, we are all affected significantly and more so the most vulnerable and least resilient. That is why we all have a role to play and an awareness to be had. If you have not yet seen the documentary “An Inconvenient truth” please do so now, for context.

With Climate change, “yesterday” is the time to act. So the question is, when did this all climate change start, who started it, what now, why now, why ever? And why should it matter to you, to us, to Zambia? Zambia has recognised Climate change and enshrined this into our Constitution, through an amendment Act no.2 of 2016.

Zambia is a non-annex 1 country to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and did ratify the Paris Agreement (COP21) that seeks to hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above preindustrial levels as well as pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above preindustrial levels.

And as a show of commitment, Zambia has submitted what is called its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to the UNFCCC (basically suggesting how much Zambia could contribute in carbon emission reduction as the country transitions to a low carbon and low emissions growth path: 47% reduction in emissions against its 2010 base year).
Now that we have some sort of understanding of what climate change is, we need to see how climate change correlates to energy and loadshedding because after all has been said, the man (gender -neutral) on the street only wants to know what role to play to end this and what those charged with the task are doing about it. I can bet that what man only wants mostly is to flick a light switch and there is LIGHT!
The next article shall explore among others, these issues/ themes and subthemes so keep reading and giving us feedback:
• Energy
• Energy-Water-Environment nexus
• Climate change – energy correlation
• Carbon footprint
• GHG emissions inventory: Scope 1, 2 & 3 carbon emissions
• Non-financial/Sustainability reporting/ Integrated reporting
• Climate change Impacts
• Global warming solutions
• Climate change mitigation and adaptation
• UNFCCC/IPCC/ COP
• Sustainable development / SDGs
• Triple bottom-line Concept
• Energy Management

The author is an energy expert and Sustainability Practitioner with over 25 years of experience (Industrial Mining, Academia, Power Infrastructure/ESI, Electrical consultancy and energy advisory & consultancy). Send your comments to: chisakula.kaputu@see.co.zm

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