Last week, we discussed the basics of climate change from science to misconceptions about its impacts. We ended on the note that developing countries will carry most of the burden of climate change, despite contributing the least amount of greenhouse gases that fuel it. In today’s post, we will cover the impact of climate change specifically in Kenya.
That’s all that we have for you today, please tune in next time for part three of our climate change crash course. We look forward to your company! All the best
Kenya is vulnerable to climate change, as it threatens the country’s economic growth, sustainable development, and well-being as a population. In some areas, there will be an increase in rainfall intensity and unpredictability. The Rift Valley province will experience an ongoing cycle of droughts, floods, and landslides, creating an unstable environment for populations living there. Freshwater resources will also reduce with an increased glacier melt. Communities in Kenya’s coastal areas will have to adapt their infrastructure or migrate as sea levels are expected to rise, leading to floods and saltwater intrusion. Saltwater can leak into freshwater aquifers and make the water resources unsuitable for drinking. Arid and semi-arid lands in Kenya are currently vulnerable to droughts, and climate change could amplify food insecurity and water availability.
In a general debate among the UN’s Second Committee this past fall, Kenyan delegate Lazarus O. Amayo expressed that the effects of climate change “costs Kenya approximately 3 percent of GDP annually, has impoverished millions and is quickly reversing gains against hunger.” He stated that climate change also threatens Kenya’s agriculture-based economy, with agriculture making up 26 percent of the nation’s GDP. Climate change also threatens business development. Amayo raises the concern that domestic resource mobilization is “Kenya’s main source of income to finance the Goals, representing 70 percent of its resource base.” Any hindrance to this income can set back Kenya’s progress to reach its Sustainable Development Goals.
Furthermore, urban areas in Kenya will also be affected by climate change, especially in informal settlements. Many cities find themselves experiencing a “heat island effect” where urban areas are warmer than their surrounding neighborhoods due to more human activity. However, research suggests that this phenomenon is magnified in informal settlements and unplanned urban areas. One study researched this effect in Kibera, an informal settlement in Kenya. The researchers described Kibera as having a “micro-climate” that is hotter than the rest of Nairobi. This environment is created by the construction materials in the informal settlement, poor ventilation, little green cover, poor access to electricity, and a dense population. The study warns that global warming might magnify temperatures in Kibera, among other informal settlements. Consequently, extreme heat can pose adverse health effects (health risks) such as heat stroke that can cause damage to the brain and other vital organs. Excessive heat increases the risk of death from a stroke, respiratory issues, or cardiovascular (heart) conditions. Excessive rainfall from climate change can also jeopardize the housing among Kibera from floods and landslides. The remaining water may become stagnant and increase communicable diseases as it incubates disease vectors and waterborne diseases.
One current example of the impact of climate change is the increase in locust swarms in East Africa. Since the beginning of 2020, the region has experienced one of the worst outbreaks in the past in 25 years and 70 for Kenya. During their off period, desert locusts typically remain in the arid and semi-arid lands deserts of Africa and reproduce during the wet season. Populations maintain themselves naturally. However, records have shown that these past consecutive five years have been the hottest since records began. In fact, in a sample of 30 African countries, 20 of the countries are warming faster than the world as a whole. Locusts prefer warmer temperatures and can now migrate into regions that had not been suitable before. Heavy rain during the wet season has also become more sporadic in the Horn of Africa, which is linked to the influence of climate change on the Indian Dipole. For context, the Indian Dipole influences the weather surrounding the Indian Ocean, specifically in East Africa. This change in the wet season has increased the locust reproduction cycle and swarm size, threatening agricultural production and the livelihoods of many. The effects of climate change are unpredictable, and the 2020 locust infestation is a prime example of how the alterations in our weather patterns carry through in different facets.
Climate change will shift all aspects of our lives, and we are already feeling its impact. The only control we have over the crisis is reducing greenhouse gas emissions and transitioning to sustainable policies as a global community. Doing so will slow and minimize these repercussions. We focused on a climate change crash course, knowing that education is the first step for climate action. Understanding the issue allows you to engage in discussions and leadership opportunities, examine decision-making at all scales and participate in advocacy.