Kenya: The Influence of Global Warming

Introduction

Global warming is among the most important issues on the global economic and political agenda. However, it has taken almost 20 years for it to become an international priority. Global warming is caused by the greenhouse effect, which requires the presence of greenhouse gases. The emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere occurs due to several anthropogenic activities that are carried out onto the Earth’s surface. Therefore, there is a link between population growth with increased anthropogenic activities. Moreover, if the issue of overpopulation remains unaddressed, it can probably lead to the Sixth Mass extinction (Tarlach, 2018). Scientists perceive that developing countries are the most impacted by global warming, for instance, Kenya. This paper aims to examine the role that greenhouse gases play in global warming, the challenges posed by global warming, and the relationship between population growth and global warming.

Greenhouse Gases and Global Warming

The account of the scientific background of the greenhouse effect is trailed back to Jean Baptiste-Joseph de Fourier in 1827 (Caminade et al, 2014). Fourier proposed that the atmosphere allows short wavelength radiation from the Sun to reach and heat the surface of the Earth while blocking the emission longer wavelength terrestrial radiation reflected from the surface. This variation in the functionality of the atmosphere is caused by greenhouse gases. A greenhouse gas is a gas that traps heat in the atmosphere. The primary greenhouses gases are carbon (IV) oxide, methane, halogenated compounds, tropospheric ozone, and nitrous oxide. Carbon (IV) oxide is the biggest contributor. For instance, in 2000, Kenya’s total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions were estimated to be 54, 955 Gg CO2 equivalent (National Environment Management Authority, 2015).

These GHGs are released into the atmosphere through various anthropogenic activities such as changes in land use, burning of fossil fuels, soil erosion, and agriculture among others, which occur on the Earth’s surface. For instance, in 2000, Kenya’s agricultural sector contributed to 41% of the GHG emissions (National Environment Management Authority, 2015).

When the GHGs are released into the atmosphere, they interact with the ozone layer in the stratosphere, hence depleting it. The ozone layer plays a crucial role in filtering the incoming radiation from the Sun thus preventing harmful rays from reaching the Earth’s surface. Moreover, the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere absorb radiation and re-radiate it in all directions. These two actions increase the amount of radiation reaching the Earth’s surface. Therefore, the temperature is elevated leading to global warming.

Challenges posed by Global Warming in Kenya

Even though Kenya has minor historical or current accountability for global climate change, and its emissions are minor compared to global emissions, the country remains highly susceptible to its effects (National Environment Management Authority, 2015). Several challenges are arising from global warming that the country might face.

Economic challenges

The primary drivers of Kenya’s economy are mainly natural resource-based, hence sensitive to climate changes. Therefore, global warming poses a major threat to the socio-economic development of the country. It adversely affects agriculture which is the backbone of Kenya’s economy. Furthermore, according to National Environment Management Authority (2015), the cumulative effects of global warming in the next two or three decades have the capacity to setback the substantial development made towards the achievement of the Vision 2030 and Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Finally, the expenses of mitigating the adverse effects of global warming, mostly droughts and floods, are estimated to be equivalent to 2.6% of annual Kenya’s GDP by 2030.

Security challenges

Global warming infringes the right to security. Over the past few years, the transformation of the Arid and Semi-Arid Lands has adversely affected the livelihood of pastoralists. For instance, in the North-Eastern region, there is a conflict between the Turkana and Pokot, and Turkana and Daasanach near the Ethiopian border (Human Rights Watch, 2015). Although many variables have driven conflict between these pastoralist communities, the shrinking water sources and grazing lands have escalated the traditional patterns of livestock raiding (Human Rights Watch, 2015).

Human health challenges

Global warming can adversely affect human health since it increases the magnitude and occurrence of vector-borne, water-borne, and food-borne diseases. A study conducted in Kenya established an association between climatic trends since 1975 and childhood stunting, i.e., an indicator of malnutrition (Caminade et al., 2014).

Effect of Population Growth of Population on Global Warming

It has been established that there is a relationship between population growth and global warming. People use fossil fuels to power their increasingly mechanized way of life. The United Nations Population Fund revealed that the population grew from 1.6 billion to a 6.1billion in the 20th century. Moreover, during this period, the carbon (IV) oxide emissions increased 12-fold. Therefore, this suggests that the more the number of people, the more the usage of fossils fuels as a source of power. Furthermore, it is projected the global population will exceed 9 billion over the next 50 years. This suggests the need for environmentalists and governments to focus on population growth as an exacerbating factor of global warming. Hence the question, does the rate at which people are reproducing need to be controlled to save the environment?

Many individuals do not understand the relationship between population growth and global warming. The known causes of global warming include deforestation and pollution. A study conducted in Kenya by Otieno & Pauker illustrated that a majority of Kenyans are unfamiliar with the concepts of global warming and climate change (National Environment Management Authority, 2015). Most population experts believe that health, educational and financial policies are effective in slowing or stopping population growth (Australia Academy of Science, 2015). Birth rates decrease when individuals are given access to sexual and reproductive healthcare. Moreover, when education beyond the primary level is encouraged, women and girls become socially and politically empowered. Therefore, they decide to limit their family size. Finally, although controversial population experts, the provision of financial, health, and educational incentives result in a corresponding drop in birth rates. It occurs when the population is paid to have fewer children or free education is provided to single-child families.

Conclusion

Mounting evidence illustrates that global warming can influence the social, economic, political, and environmental status of a country. Susceptibility to global warming and poverty are the most critical developmental challenges facing Kenya. Kenya, being a developing country with a substantial portion of its population reliant on climate-sensitive sectors, has a low adaptive capacity to weather the adverse consequences of global warming. Moreover, global warming has been linked to population growth. It is recommended that developing countries, including +Kenya, should start treating the increase in population growth rate as an issue of national security. This is because it leads to a climate of instability. The various governments should focus on slowing, stopping, and reversing population growth. When appropriate health, educational and financial policies are put in place, a sustainable decrease in the global population might occur within decades.

References

  1. Australia Academy of Science. (2015). Population and environment: A global change. Web.
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  3. Human Rights Watch. (2015). Climate Change, Environmental Threats, and Human Rights in Turkana County, Kenya. New York: Human Rights Watch.
  4. National Environment Management Authority. (2015). Kenya: Second National Communication to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Nairobi: National Environment Management Authority.
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