In 1950, the atmospheric carbon dioxide level was at 300 parts per million. In 2020, it is at 420 parts per million according to www.climate.nasa.gov. These figures are quite important to mankind as it tries to understand and remedy the various effects of our species on the climate. According to the same source: “The Earths’ climate has changed throughout history. Just in the last 650,000 years, there has been seven cycles of glacial advance and retreat, with the abrupt end of the ice age about 11,700 years ago marking the beginning of the modern climate era and human civilization…The current warming trend is of particular significance because most of it is extremely likely (greater than 95 percent probability) to be the result of human activity since the mid-20th Century and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented over decades to millennia”.
Satellites in orbit have enabled us to track these changes and to note that the greenhouse effect does influence the amount of infrared rays that the Earth receives. They warm the planet beyond the norms and thus lead to the global warming that we commonly refer to at conferences, seminars and media outlets to date. NASA monitors these changes thanks to the following:
- Global Temperature Rise: Planet Earths’ temperature has risen close to 1.62 degrees Fahrenheit or 0.9 degrees Celsius since the late 19th Century. Carbon dioxide and other emissions released by mankind into the atmosphere have caused the past 35 years to be the warmest ever with peaks being reached in 2016.
- Warming Oceans: The top 700 meters or 2,300 feet of the planets’ oceans have warmed up more than 0.4 degrees Fahrenheit since 1969.
- Shrinking Ice Sheets: From 1993 to 2016, Greenland has lost approximately 286 billion tons of ice per year. Antarctica, nearly 127 billion tons per year during the same time frame.
- Glacial Retreat: Retreats have been noted in the Alps, Himalayas, Andes, Rockies, Alaska and in Africa.
- Decreased Snow Cover: During the last five decades, the Northern Hemisphere has received less snow and the amounts it gets are melting faster.
- Sea Level Rise: During the past century, the sea levels on our planet rose about 8 inches. Within the last decade, that rate has doubled.
- Declining Arctic Sea Ice: During the last several decades, the thickness of the Arctic Sea has decreased at alarming rates.
- Extreme Events: High temperature events have been more frequent in the U.S. Furthermore, more intense rainfalls were also recorded in the U.S.
- Ocean Acidification: The industrial revolution has led to the higher levels of acidity on the surface of ocean waters, nearly 30 percent more. The oceans are taking in the high levels of carbon dioxide being emitted by humans into the atmosphere. Upper layers of the oceans are increasing the absorption rate at approximately 2 billion tons per year.
Greta Thunberg is a name that we have all come familiar with over the last couple of years. The young, Swedish environmental activist is the granddaughter of Nobel Prize for Chemistry winner in 1903, notably Svante Arrhenius. He incepted the model of the greenhouse effect. Greta is famously known for her #FridaysForFuture movement which entailed not going to school every Friday and demonstrating to raise awareness on climate change. She has inspired students around the globe. In December 2018, more than 20,000 people joined her movement in countries such as Australia, the U.K., Belgium, the U.S. and Japan. In 2019, the teenager decided not to attend school and filled her timeline with a list of relevant conferences to attend. When she arrived at the UN Climate Conference in New York in September 2019, millions of individuals around the globe engaged in various demonstrations to show allegiance to her cause. During this conference, she did not bite her words and addressed the politicians with no reserves regarding the fact that they were relying on the younger generations for solutions: “How dare you? I should not be here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean, yet you all come to us young people for help. How dare you? You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. Sorry, you’re not trying hard enough”. Her efforts were tailored to influence governments to cut down on global emissions.
With the current COVID-19 pandemic, everything from air travelling and hospitality to manufacturing and commuting has come to a halt and sent oil prices dropping to their lowest in history; below $0 USD some weeks ago. In lieu, Saudi Arabia and Russia have agreed to decrease daily outputs to stabilize the sector. However, the Saudi oil tankers, more than 20 of them, are currently on U.S. shorelines and could possibly cause a diplomatic incident with the U.S. being that these storage facilities will enable Saudi Arabia to dominate the industry in a post COVID-19 era. Which begs the question, how will such ambitions promote the rise of the green energy industries? How will renewables compete with the strong lobbies of the oil and gas industries? Perhaps, one key player to inspire oil exporting nations should be Dubai. They spun oil revenue into a dynamic and thriving business hub that attracts millions per year as it expands at the speed of light in the decades to come.
In 2016, the worlds’ first comprehensive climate agreement was incepted within the UN Framework Constitution on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The 196 State Representatives negotiating at the UNFCCCs’ 21st Conference held in Bourget, France had adopted the agreement by consensus on December 12th, 2015. This latter is meant to tackle greenhouse gas emissions mitigation, adoption and finance. One of the key components is the 20/20/20 Targets: The reduction of carbon dioxide (Co2) emissions by 20%, the increase of renewable energy market shares to 20% and a 20% increase in energy efficiency.
The Gambia, like most countries worldwide is affected by climate change in various ways. The negative trend in rainfall in the late 1960s’ and the rising sea levels putting areas like its capital, Banjul, at risk are just some of the numerous consequences on the list. With an occupied land area of 10,690 sq.km, it is the smallest country in mainland Africa. Its ecosystems and natural resources as well as the populations are having to face global warming with 50% of the land area located under 20 meters above the sea level and one third of the land being below 10 meters above the sea level. Furthermore, 10 to 20 percent of the above land is flooded during the rainy season or year round.
In 2012, more than 700,000 people in The Gambia were affected by a food crisis according to the ActionAid USA. The severe drought across the West Africa Sahel region was at the root of it all. Farmers in The Gambia are currently facing less rainfalls and salt intrusion that renders their soils infertile. The salt water from the Atlantic Ocean finding its way into the River Gambia is no longer being balanced out as accustomed by the heavy rainy seasons that are becoming scarcer. According to ActionAid, three in four workers in The Gambia make their living in the Agriculture Sector. In retaliation, ActionAid has initiated the Agroecology and Resilience Project (AERP) in the communities to implement resilience mechanisms against climate change. Diversifying farmers’ activities and having them invest in livestock breeding and sales, filling gullies with rocks and wire mesh to slow the speed of flood water runoff with gabions, building contour bunds as well as opening seed and cereal banks in villages to preserve food supplies for leaner seasons.
According to the final draft of the National Climate Change Policy of The Gambia dated January 28th, 2016, the framework seeks to manage climate risks, build institutions and capacities as well as identify opportunities for climate resilient sustainable development in The Gambia. This initiative will accompany The Gambia and its citizens in the fight against:
- The deterioration of the constituents’ well-being.
- The economic setbacks.
- The increased floods damaged roads and infrastructures.
- The decreased agricultural production.
- The destabilizing of food security.
- The heat and dryness affecting the populations’ health and that are associated with high levels of poverty and a fluctuating economy.
The Third Republic of The Gambia definitely has its fair share of hurdles to overcome to safeguard the future generations’ environmental interest at hand.