16 December 2011

Zimbabwe: Country, Climate Change Phenomena

DESPITE being significantly impacted by global warming, Zimbabweans are taking their sweet time to implement policies that can mitigate the impact of climate change, which is already taking its toll on agriculture, the country's mainstay.

Environmentalists have made recommendations at various gatherings about how global warming could be mitigated but nothing has been translated into action.

Zimbabwe has also pledged to do the same to the world yet nothing is happening on the ground to achieve this.

"There is no national policy in place yet to comprehensively address such risks," says Regis Mafuratidze, an environmental law expert. "What we have are only sectoral approaches to address issues of climate change."

Various factors are contributing to this.

Firstly, climate change is a complex subject still to be understood by the majority of people, including government bureaucrats.

Secondly, the lack of political will has made it difficult for the country to take practical steps to address risks associated with climate change.

The lack of resources -- both financial and human skills -- has been another handicap.

The situation is being made worse by rich nations that are reneging on commitments to finance climate change programmes in poor countries.

For instance, the United States and other rich countries are ducking and diving over these critical issues.

Mafuratidze said combating the vagaries of climate change could remain a mirage unless industrialised states recommit themselves to meeting their emission-reduction targets.

Yet another impediment has been the lack of a co-ordinated approach on climate change issues: Sectoral approaches have tended to be disjointed and complex.

What is also available in Zimbabwe are adaptation action plans, which environmentalist doubt will lead to a comprehensive national policy that can be endorsed and implemented by the government.

Like most other countries in Africa, Zimbabwe is suffering from the impact of global warming.

The burden of climate change is likely to be felt more by the poor in the near future. The damaging effects of climate change will play out more in the coming decades, pushing the majority of the poor into extreme poverty.

Zimbabwe and most other African countries are particularly vulnerable to climate change because of their high dependence on rain-fed agriculture.

As many as 250 million people in Africa may not have enough water to meet their basic needs by 2020 because of climate change.

According to the October 2011 estimates from the Met-eorological Service Depart-ment, Zimbabwe experienced record breaking temperatures this summer not felt since 1962.

In October, Masvingo hit 40 degrees Celcius (°C), jumping from 39°C recorded in 1995; Beitbridge recorded 44°C, up from 43,5°C recorded on October 12, 1995 while Buffalo Range recorded temperature highs of 44°C, up from 43°C it reached on October 12 of the same year.

Maximum temperatures in Kezi reached 41°C, up from 40°C recorded in 1962.

Mutsa Chasi of the Environmental Management Agency, in a report, says Zimbabwe is now experiencing unprecedented extreme weather events, which have serious implications on food security and the economy as a whole.

Seven warmest years on record for Zimbabwe have occurred since 1987 increasing frequency of droughts since 1990 (90/91, 91/92, 92/93, 93/94, 94/95, 97/98, 01/02, 02/03, 04/05, 06/07). This has resulted in a massive drop in crop yields.

"Zimbabwe, like most other African countries, will be the least prepared to cope with climate change. The threat of increased global warming associated with the release of greenhouse gases is real.

"Harare and Bulawayo have experienced a warming of about two degrees Celsius in the last 30 years and precipitation patterns also show a reduction of 30 percent in rainfall," Chasi indicates in a report.

She says the findings by the Met Services also showed that floods and droughts in the region are gradually increasing in number and frequency.

Globally, precipitation patterns have changed.

Rainfall patterns in Zimbabwe show similar trends with rainfall characteristics such as onset, dry spell, rainfall intensity and rainfall amounts showing signs of change.

Zimbabwe is experiencing an increase in the frequency of floods. Cyclone-induced flooding included cyclone Bonita 1996, Eline 2000, Japhet 2003 and another in 2007.

"With predictions that agricultural productivity in Zimbabwe could decrease by up to 30 percent because of increases in climatic extre-mes, climate change poses one of the most serious food security challenges of the 21st century in the country," Chasi says.

"The high prevalence and intensity of poverty may amplify the negative impacts of climate change, particularly among rural and peri-urban populations, with unprecedented consequences on an already degraded environment."

And without any clear commitment by industrialised nations on cutting down emissions and funding for climate change adaptation and mitigation, the Durban COP17 fanfare has largely disappointed by leaving climate change activists sitting high and dry at a tremendous human cost for the majority of the poor in developing countries.

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