On my Facebook timeline I am often reading of the effects of climate change on the developing world. A lot of charities I follow highlight that climate change is affecting the poorer people of the poorer nations and destroying their livelihoods.
In honesty, I have taken it with a pinch of salt. It felt like another route for charities seeking funding. I am no naysayer to climate change: I think it is real and that we are communally responsible for maintaining our planet and all the creatures that live on it in the best possible state.
Then, a couple of weeks ago I read this article about Zambia. In the midst of the article that is predominantly about the effects of power cuts on businesses, was a single sentence that caught my eyes:
Mr Phiri says he remembers when rains used to arrive like clockwork each year on 24 October, but “now there is global warming.”
(I was told when we arrived in Zambia that the rains came on Independence Day each year, and laughed. Really? Like clockwork? But it was the commonly held perception of the start of the rainy season. And – in my experience – they didn’t arrive on 24 October, though it was there or thereabouts. )
Reading this article I suddenly understood why it is that climate change is affecting the developing world so badly. The changes in weather patterns mean that rivers stop flowing, crops fail, drinking water is in short supply, farming routines cannot be relied on. In Zambia, a country that relies on hydroelectricity, the disruption of the rainy/dry seasons mean that there is less water flowing through the dams and therefore less power can be produced. A lack of production means there is insufficient electricity to power everyone’s homes and businesses for 24 hours a day and the authorities are forced to enforce loadshedding. So, for maybe eight hours a day, there is no planned electricity (though actual power cut times can vary widely!).
The result? Families can’t cook dinner on their electric stove. That, actually, is the least of the problems for the country. (After all, many can cook at a different time, or can use gas or an open fire.) The bigger problem is the effect it has on business. Even small, one-man operations require power to keep their food cold in fridges, or to enable their machines to work, or to send emails, or power phones. It also has a knock-on effect on inflation, as it costs more to produce any aspect of business.
And yes, you can be elitist and say that they can find ways round these perils (we all used handheld instruments two hundred years ago) but why should they? And, more importantly, why should they be restricted, when they have so little in the first place? When we will complain if we have one evening without power (for whatever reason)?
World leaders are currently meeting in Paris to push forward changes and resolutions on the back of climate change. Never has the world needed it more. Here in the UK, thousands of people have had their Christmases ruined by the record-breaking rainfall in Cumbria. In Zambia, thousands of businesses are grinding to a halt as they cannot reach full productivity without a reliable source of power. The world is suffering from the effects of Climate Change and Global Warming. We need to do something about it. And we need to support those whose radical ideas are going to change our world for the better. Sell the car; take the bus. Campaign for renewables. Invest in geothermal heat production. Change for the better.