Climate change: No more excuses but actions

Author, Moses Chemurot. PHOTO/COURTESY 

What you need to know:

  • Even if there are uncertainties about how exactly climate change will progress, it will have several adverse effects in Uganda.

I can say with certainty that the effects of climate change have begun to bite across Uganda. Climate change is caused by increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere because of mostly human activities. 

Farmers have already lost crops from prolonged drought and new pests. Many households have already been displaced by floods. Last year alone, flooding along lakes Victoria, Kyoga, and Albert displaced thousands of people. 

Uganda is among the countries that contribute only a “drop in the ocean of global warming.” But those who emit the most greenhouse gases are also those least affected by the impacts of global warming.

Impacts of climate change on living organisms occur because temperature is a direct cue and driver of animal and plant growth and development. Some species have specific tolerance limits for temperature and rainfall. Yet climate change is resulting in changes to their habitats. 

The recent desert locust invasion in Uganda was attributed to changes in weather conditions in their breeding grounds in the Middle East and horn of Africa. Hence, climate change is predicted to expand the geographic range of pests and cause disease shifts because increased temperature affects animal activity.

Rising temperatures increase the oxygen demand of animals while it reduces oxygen solubility in water. Organisms living in water are highly sensitive to reduced oxygen levels. Given that organisms do not live in isolation, these impacts will have diverse and cascading impact among species.

Scientists expect that living organisms will respond to the changing climate in different ways: (1) organisms with “plasticity” in some respects will survive by acclimatization, (2) those able to migrate, will do so, (3) other species will survive through adaptation to new conditions, and (4) species that cannot do any of the above will go extinct.

Even if there are uncertainties about how exactly climate change will progress, it will have several adverse effects in Uganda. Crop yields will be reduced due to shrinking growing areas, reduced soil fertility, increased pest invasion, and weather changes. Land for grazing will be lost to desertification. Human-wildlife conflicts will increase around protected areas due to competition for resources. Increasing water scarcity will place greater stress on communities.

The consequence of all these impacts of climate change is that food insecurity will increase and conflicts in communities will escalate.

So, what can we do? First, we need to strengthen institutions for integrated planning and sustainable development. We need to support the development of technologies that respond to climate change such as stress tolerant crops, irrigation, and early warning systems. 

We need to promote the diversification of livelihoods among households. We need to encourage agronomic practices such as agroforestry and conservation agriculture. And finally, we need to support pest and vector surveillance and management. With these interventions we can hope to limit the risk Ugandan communities face from climate change.

*Dr Moses Chemurot  is a fellow of the Uganda National Academy of Sciences and Lecturer, Department of Zoology, Entomology and Fisheries Sciences, Makerere University


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