The world’s decision-makers and decision-influencers are gearing up to confront the coming cataclysm of climate change in Copenhagen, Denmark this December 2009. And already, there are indications that apart from giving the impression of coming together to confront the looming danger that carbon emissions stands to wreak on our ecosystem, there will be cacophony of voices, each set to maintain a set of rigid opinions, based on regional and geographical dispositions. The United States, US, under Barack Obama, which everyone thought would take the lead in proposing measures to mitigate and press for proposals for adaptation for climate change does not have relevant legislation in place to back up the plan to re-work a previous agreement [the Kyoto] that sought to provide a framework for curtailing carbon emissions.
Before the turn of the millennium, climate change was beginning to be the sexiest and most controversial topic in public discuss. The gist was that the processes that sustain our comfortable lifestyles as human being have put a lot of strain on the same processes that sustain the delicateness of the earth. Now when we use the term ‘processes’, we do not mean only processes that lead to the emission of carbon from cars, industries, heavy duty nuclear plants, gas flaring, pollution or the like, no. It is much more than that. The things that have brought about climate change involve such little things like that air-conditioner and refrigerator in your house or in your car, that lovely plate of rice you’re about to have for dinner, together with just about any other gizmo that ordinarily gives you a measure of comfort.
What everyone has found out is that the pressure on the earth is leading to an increase in the world’s temperatures, already melting the ice in the North Pole. Now when things like this happens, cities along the coasts like Lagos, Abidjan, Accra, Yaoundé, become particularly vulnerable because of the concomitant rises in sea levels. What this portends for everyone, the North and South, is that the sacking of a city like Lagos would mean that more and more people would be seeking to relocate to either Melbourne, New York or even Copenhagen.
Governments and non-governmental bodies in the North [a synonym for the most developed and richest nations of the world – Europe and the Americas] were not very quick to notice this. But when they did, they took swift action. They have arranged to stop hurting the earth by turning to renewable energy sources – solar, wind, hydro, nuclear and biomass – energy sources that contribute little or nothing to further aggravate the earth’s already precarious condition. They have put in place a global network of the world’s smartest brains to take the message of greening the earth as far as they can. But their best efforts, sadly, have not done much to defrost the thick African and Asian cloud of suspicion surrounding these stellar efforts. ‘Why tell us to go green after you have used up all of the oil to develop your countries? Why not let us develop like you have done before telling us to go green? Are you not the ones responsible for precipitating the climate change problem in the first place?’ most African nations have asked.
It was this kind of thinking that led to an arrangement called carbon trading. Under the Kyoto Agreement of 1997, most countries signatory to it, apart from the United States, had a carbon emission quota of 5.2 percent which they could not exceed, at least up till 2012. If they knew that they would as a result of activities in their individual economies, they had to buy ‘credits’ from those nations that were least likely to exceed theirs. Apparently, the plan did not work, necessitating an overhauling of the entire arrangement with the coming COP 15 Summit in Copenhagen. Apparently again, African and Asian countries still insist that countries of the North were responsible for the looming climate change problem and should be made to carry the biggest can for the mess we are all in today.
If that is the case, that may be why the rumour mill is awash with new gist that Africans contribute more to climate change than anyone else. The rumour mongers cite the high fertility and fecundity ratio of Africans. The allegation [for that is what it is for now] is that because Africans breed more, they consume more power, drive more cars, fell more trees, and eat more rice. The rumour mill also has it that there are strong proposals on the way to impose China’s one-child one-family policy on Africans so that climate would no longer change, and the looming disaster would be averted once and for all.
Well that may be good but definitely not the answer to tackling climate change. I believe that we should leave children out of this problem. Countries of the North and their cronies peddling this kind of allegation must learn that we all must respect a child’s right to a life that he or she had had no hand in destroying. But if the true situation must be cited, we must refer to a recent report by Dr David Satterthwaite, sent to our email boxes by Mike Shanahan. By the way, Shanahan is Press Officer to the International Institute for Environment and Development, IIED, in the United Kingdom. According to Satterthwaite, ‘A child borne into a very poor African household who during their life never escapes from poverty contributes very little to climate change, especially if they die young, as many do. Conversely [sic], A child born into a wealthy household in North America or Europe and enjoys a full life and a high-consumption lifestyle contributes far more – thousands or even ten thousands of times more’.
Satterthwaite based his assumption on the following facts: that sub-Saharan Africa had 18.5 percent of the world’s population growth and just 12.6 percent of the growth in carbon emissions; that the US had 3.4 percent of the world’s population growth and 12.6 percent of the growth in carbon emissions; that high income nations had 7 percent of the world’s population growth and 29 percent of the growth in carbon emissions; that low-income countries had 52.1 percent of the world’s population growth and just 12.8 percent of the growth in carbon emissions; that most of the nations with the highest population growth rates had low growth rates for carbon emissions while many of the nations with the lowest population growth rates had high growth rates for carbon dioxide emission.
All that this report has accomplished is that it places a lot of emphasis on where the climate change problem lies – our lifestyles rather than the number of children that Africans bear. I think that is what everyone should focus on. If some African nations have accused the countries of the North as being responsible for the looming danger of climate change, I think the best way to resolve matters is the opportunity provided by COP 15, to try to look at issues from a global perspective rather that what is happening now.
Africans by nature see children as a blessing from God. They believe that a boy or girl is the only raw material with which a man or woman is manufactured. To a large extent however, this belief in the child being a blessing makes us produce then, even when our resources cannot take care of them. Matters are compounded because a whole lot of these children did not have the choices of whom or where they are borne. If we realize this, we must be thinking way ahead of putting relevant measures in place to secure the future of the children all over the world by adjusting our lifestyles. Take for instance in Germany – most people do not drive cars. They hop on the trains clutching their bicycles and ride on when they are near their destinations. The effect is that there is less and less carbon emissions and a more and more healthy and trimmer population with a clearer mind. Those are the kind of messages we should try to send,
even though it will hurt the economy of the country making the cars. That, in my estimation may prove much more relevant that peddling these rumours about our children that have no basis either in logic of facts.