ACNS—“Climate change will kill more Africans than malaria or AIDS,” Anglican church warned

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The continent of Africa is facing a future in which climate change will kill more people than traditional causes such as malaria and HIV, according to a Ugandan environmental expert. Dr Rose Mwebaza warned Anglican bishops from Africa in Entebbe that lakes across the continent are shrinking and drying up, crops are failing, deforestation is leading to terrible flooding and, as a result, people are fighting and killing each other over resources. “Africa is facing several [environmental] challenges,” said Dr Mwebaza, a senior legal advisor on environmental security at Nairobi’s Institute of Security Studies. These include increased droughts and reduced availability of water; desertification - one factor in major flooding - and increased incidents of diseases in previously unaffected areas. “Lake Chad in 1973 covered several countries,” she said. “It is reduced to a shadow of its former self. It is vanishing from the continent right in front of our eyes.”

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Filed under: * Anglican - EpiscopalAnglican ProvincesChurch of Uganda* Culture-WatchHealth & Medicine* International News & CommentaryAfrica

16 Comments
Posted August 26, 2010 at 9:05 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]



1. A Senior Priest wrote:

Well, since we are going to have cooler weather for the next 15 to 20 years or so, I guess she can stop her worrying. It would be a good thing, however, if as she says the Church in Africa used its properties to help restore the forest.

August 26, 9:41 am | [comment link]
2. Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) wrote:

The good doctor needs to expand her multi-disciplinary horizons a bit. The entire period from 8 to 12 thousand years ago brought forth a Sahara much wetter than it is today. This is a function of what is called the Chandler Wobble of Earth’s axis, which has about a 23,000 year period. We are therefore at the driest times of that cycle.

In another nine thousand years or so there will once again be fish and crocs and hippos in the Sahara once again. This has absolutely nothing to do with anthropogenic global warming. The phenomenon is well known to anthropologists and to geologists.

On a related note, the storied rain forests of the Amazon basin did not exist 18,000 years ago. It was all fairly dry savanna resembling eastern Africa today. Unfortunately, people with time horizons little longer than that of a fruit fly make no effort to understand long-cycle changes.

Final dig. Earth has been in a long-term cooling for better than 50 million years. Even 18 million years ago, the Arctic Ocean was a fresh water lake. Forty million years ago it had a climate similar to today’s Memphis, Tennessee, complete not only with cypress trees, but crocodiles.

For those of us trained in geology, ten million years is pocket change. Is it too much to expect that other alleged scientist could at least thing in terms of ten thousand years?

August 26, 10:20 am | [comment link]
3. Dale Rye wrote:

Which planet do you live on that is going to have cooler weather? There are reliable temperature records going back 13 decades for 225 independent or autonomous countries. If temperatures were constant, you would expect that just about 7.7% of those countries would set an all-time high temperature record in any given decade. In fact, roughly a third of them have set records since 2000, and 14 countries so far this year. That is almost 10 times the rate that could be expected if temperatures were declining even a little. Each of the last five months have set records for the highest global temperatures since 1880. Arctic ice coverage and volume are both at the lowest level since we began satellite observations in 1979. Now, one might argue that the cause for this warming isn’t human activity, but it is impossible to credibly argue that the warming isn’t occurring. If one argues that the warming isn’t anthropogenic, one should perhaps come up with an alternative mechanism, particularly given that we are just emerging from one of the lowest solar minima in centuries.

August 26, 10:40 am | [comment link]
4. Scott K wrote:

Dale, I’m afraid you’re talking to a brick wall.

August 26, 11:02 am | [comment link]
5. Dale Rye wrote:

Actually, I agree about the brick wall, so I’ll just post what I’d already written and shut up:

Ok, the “Chandler Wobble.” At the moment, the Northern Hemisphere is pointing away from the sun (winter) at the point when the earth is closest to the sun in its orbit (perihelion). Logically, that should lead to cooler Northern Hemisphere summers and warmer winters. Perhaps more importantly, since it is a 23,000 year cycle, it can’t explain the climate changes that have been occurring on the scale of decades and even years, rather than centuries or millennia. Lake Chad hasn’t evaporated over the last 9000 years; it has vanished since the 1960s.

More importantly, still, neither Dr. Mwebaza nor the African bishops are particularly concerned about whether there are going to be hippos in the Sahara in AD 11010. They are concerned with people who are currently dying and will be dying in increased numbers due to declining natural resources and warfare stoked by those shortages. People in our part of the world seem not to realize that most human beings who have died by violence since 1945 lived in Africa, not Korea or Southeast Asia or the Middle East or Afghanistan. The conflicts that have been endemic for 50 years in the Congo, Uganda, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, etc., etc. are partially driven by the struggle for resources that have become scarce largely as the result of human actions. It seems appropriate to address those problems now, rather than advising Africans to wait 9000 years for the Chandler Wobble to fix things.

August 26, 11:05 am | [comment link]
6. Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) wrote:

Association does not equal causality. There is a well-documented warmer/cooler cycle running at about 35 years, and we’re on our way out of the warmer edition.

Recent warming is unique neither in its existence nor its rate. There have been warmer peaks at ~7000 BC, 5800 BC, 4900 BC, 3800 BC, 3200 BC, 2200 BC, 1800 BC, 1300 BC (the highest in 12,000 years), 200 BC, 450 AD, and 1100 AD. These are NOAA data.

Nearly half a million years of high-resolution Antarctic ice-core data (Vostok Station) demonstrate that temperature consistently leads CO2 by about 800 years. We can talk about GSMOW and O18/O16 ratios if you wish, but that’s not the point.

Struggles for resources are indeed part of the point, but (back into my second field of expertise) things like pasture management are most certainly a core element of those challenges. A great deal of desertification is a merely function of the mismanagement of herding animals, and the resultant loss of grass cover can have a devastating effect. Sub-Saharan challenges are indeed somewhat anthropogenic, but you’re focusing on the wrong things.

Lake Chad did not exist 20,000 years ago. It reappeared during the above-mentioned wet period, and has both nearly disappeared and re-emerged more or less steadily ever since. Lake depths as follows, with surface areas correspondingly immense, or small:

9800 BC—15 metres
8500 BC— 2 metres (same as today)
7300 BC—35 metres
5500 BC— 2 metres
4000 BC—65 metres
2000 BC—gone
since then—1 to 4 metres

Please do your homework before any further “brick wall” comments.

August 26, 11:38 am | [comment link]
7. A Senior Priest wrote:

Let’s put it this way and make things clear: at the moment we can’t get to a lot of the Viking archaeological sites in Greenland because they are still under a kilometre of ice, and we’re still able not grow grapes for wine in Scotland. This is all a normal cycle, and this warm period is ending.

August 26, 1:56 pm | [comment link]
8. Grant LeMarquand wrote:

Dale - thanks for your postings. I am saddened that (some, not all) theologically conservative bloggers seem to assume that they must also be politically and socially conservative on every issue. Having lived in Kenya and having almost litterally seen the snow caps or Mt Kenya and Mt Kilimanjaro disappear before my eyes, I am aware of the suffering which can occur (to humans as well as the environment, the animlas, etc.) when humans damage God’s world.

August 26, 2:01 pm | [comment link]
9. Mark Johnson wrote:

Dale, thank you for your informed comments. I echo Grant’s comments above.

August 26, 2:38 pm | [comment link]
10. A Senior Priest wrote:

LOL… conservative, moi? Pro SSM (in the civil realm), pro universal health care with no fully private option, pro British-style gun control, limited property rights…that’s conservative? Anyway, why are all liberals and conservatives so insistent on being consistent? All truth and humor are found in the midst of paradox. Dr Mwebaza is an environmental lawyer and is spouting her party’s line. I responded to that.

August 26, 3:00 pm | [comment link]
11. Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) wrote:

I’m old enough to remember when the growing snow-cap on Kili was taken as irrefutable proof that we were on the verge of entering the next ice age.

Then again, that was at the end of about 35 years in the cooler part of the short cycle, and most people have serious trouble with a three-year time horizon.

Furthermore, data in #3 do not account for well-understood urban over-run and resultant thermal island effects. Nor do they account for the remarkable variation between rural and urban climate station pairs within 100 km of each other. Strictly rural stations demonstrate no long-term temperature change beyond margin of error in over a century. In fact it is these stations which delineate the 30-35 year short-term cycle. Something like 2/3 of the data in AGW-oriented climate studies are corrupted by urban sprawl.

To be really curmudgeonly, I’ll add this. At 350 or 400 ppm CO2, plants are not particularly happy. I run a greenhouse business these days, and most greenhouse operators jack the CO2 up to about 1500 pmm, which is where plants do best.

It also happens to be the long-term average of Earth’s atmospheric CO2 levels. Those folks clucking and squawking like a bunch of hens when the henhouse door is slammed are really squawking about ... nothing. Frightened, but clueless.

August 26, 3:20 pm | [comment link]
12. Betsybrowneyes wrote:

That Africa is having environmental problems is reality. As a biologist, I agree with Bart Hall. That the cause is “man-made” global warming is highly suspect. Our planet goes through fluctuating periods of glaciation and interglaciation. I guess interglaciation is an unfashionable term, hardly PC, since “inter” implies glaciation’s return. Poor Africa! In a land that has been torn asunder by bloodshed and disease; families are being raised by children because their parents are dead. Medicine, food, clean water, Nets for Life, education…these with our prayers are what we should be providing. Through ERD, we can help them work on alleviating their woes through introduction of crops and livestock that do well in the changing climate, as well as with education to help them improve their agricultural and irrigation techniques. Enough with the PC jargon!

August 26, 4:43 pm | [comment link]
13. wportbello wrote:

Indeed!  Let’s agree there are problems which can be addressed.  Hence, let’s address them.  Arguing about the whys when the opposing positions, as many other disagreements in our time,  are irreconcilable.  Either man is the cause or man isn’t.  We will not know within our lifetimes, so arguing about it is senseless.  Each of us hold our views in good faith and see the other position as tantamount to potentially destroying our future.  IF the consensus is that global warming is anthropogenic, the “natural cycle” group fear the mandates called for will destroy economies and destabilize governments, while making others very rich,  with no certainty any measurable reduction in temperatures will occur.  IF, on the other hand, the consensus is that it is a natural process and nothing needs to be done, the anthropogenic global warming group believes that the earth and its people risk catastrophic harm.  Each position has much to fear if the opposing view is adopted.  This is a very sad conflict.  Let’s just focus on what we can do right now to help those who need it.  We all have a personal responsibility to respect and honor our environment and resources and we have a mandate to love our neighbors.

August 26, 7:23 pm | [comment link]
14. Bart Hall (Kansas, USA) wrote:

IF, on the other hand, the consensus is that it is a natural process and nothing needs to be done, the anthropogenic global warming group believes that the earth and its people risk catastrophic harm

Not quite. Their core fear is that nothing will be done ... but temperatures will decline slightly nevertheless. They have the same old solution—higher taxes, greater regulation, and transnational governance—that continues to seek a problem. Poverty, hunger, women, climate, you name it. Always the same putative solution looking for a problem they hope will give it traction.

It was, in fact, the same solution proposed some 35 years ago to deal with the “coming ice age.” Once you understand the political sociology of the thing, it’s a lot easier to sort through the real science.

August 26, 7:32 pm | [comment link]
15. A Senior Priest wrote:

Uganda’s birthrate is such that its population will double in 20 years. I have friends there who work for some of the few non-thieving NGOs who watch this development carefully. Environmental degradation is inevitable. Even worse, the government is giving away tracts of virgin forest to their “friends” in order to grow sugar cane for Biofuels! AND there is active exploration (I have seen this with my own eyes) for oil in the great (hitherto protected) nature parks. Why is this woman not exposing this in the international media via her speech at this conference? Hmmmmmm…. having had extensive experience with people like her it makes me wonder, since basically nearly all (and I include Anglican prelates in this) Ugandans see Westerners as walking fountains of cash.

August 26, 7:53 pm | [comment link]
16. Tomb01 wrote:

Dale, I don’t think anyone disagrees that we have been (may still be) in a warming period.  Do you disagree that there have been cycles in our climate?  If you are looking for a mechanism for this, perhaps it is the same one that melted the glaciers that covered the midwest portion of the US about 10000 years ago?  Um, say, you wouldn’t mind explaining to me exactly what THAT mechanism was, would you?  I’m sure you can, as you must have ruled it out as a mechanism for the CURRENT warming, right?

August 27, 8:23 am | [comment link]
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