Contributor's Opinion

Opinion: Climate change is exacerbating environmental challenges and weather patterns in South Sudan

By Philip Ayuen Dot

Philip Ayuen Dot(Photo courtesy of the author)
Philip Ayuen Dot(Photo courtesy of the author)

July 28, 2020 (Nyamilepedia) – Climate change is a global problem that is wreaking havoc on all countries in one way or another. The rapid industrialization witnessed in the last two centuries has led to excess emission of carbon dioxide and other gases in volumes too large for the atmosphere to handle. This has led to these gases acting as a warm blanket over the earth thus causing global warming. It is this global warming that has led to the earth’s climate changing drastically. Now unlike before when weather patterns used to change gradually over tens of years, now the weather is largely unpredictable and oscillates between the extremes.

Though South Sudan’s participation in the carbon emissions that have led us here is negligible, the effects of climate change have not spared the country. It is ranked among the top five nations worldwide that are most vulnerable to climate change. Furthermore, the country will feel the effects of climate change two and a half times more than the global average. The conflict in the country doesn’t help matters either as it increases the vulnerability of the citizens even further.

The effects of climate change are already evident in the country. Floods have become an annual event in the country. Each time, they displace hundreds of thousands of people. Whereas previously floods used to come every once in a few years, they are now more frequent with barely a year passing before parts of the country are under large volumes of water. Furthermore, the duration of those floods has increased. This is disastrous to the citizens as floods cause an increase in water-borne diseases such as cholera. Floods have also reduced the country’s agricultural input making a lot of people resort to charcoal burning and other destructive activities to earn a living.

Another effect of climate change is that it has affected people’s livelihoods. 95% of the people in the country depend on climate-related activities such as agriculture, forestry, and fishery. When it floods crops get carried away, forests are submerged in water while one can’t fish as the river banks break. During the dry weather rivers dry up, forests become a source of conflict as everyone turns to them to earn a living while fishing becomes impossible. So in either of the extremes, the people are the biggest losers.

Infrastructure is also affected negatively by climate change. As the previous floods have done, they have carried away roads under construction while facilities such as Juba International Airport were submerged in water. This adds an extra cost to the government to repair these facilities. This eats into money that would have been used to make new roads and improve existing airports.

Another effect is the displacement of human beings. Climate refugees though a new concept globally is already alive in South Sudan. This is where people are displaced by the effects of climate change. The displacement of people causes congestion in the areas they move to and thus increasing conflict between those who have arrived being chased by floods and other climate change-related issues, and the locals they find in the new areas. Furthermore, this causes stress to the government as it has to allocate funds for the displaced people.

The economy also suffers negatively as a result of climate change. Trade is thoroughly hampered by things like diseases, frequent floods, increased droughts, broken down infrastructure, and reduced agricultural production. This deals a huge blow to the country’s budget, thus reducing the amount of money the government has, that it would have used to bring services such as healthcare to the people.

And as people’s livelihoods are destroyed by climate change, they turn to natural resources to find a way to feed their families. This includes doing things like charcoal burning, hunting wild animals, and cutting trees for sale. This thus compounds matters as it reduces the country’s ability to mitigate climate change. Furthermore, it reduces the country’s adaptability to climate change, and things like soil erosion increase thus further reducing agricultural productivity. And thus it becomes a vicious cycle.

But all is not lost. Though climate change has disastrous effects, the country can find ways of becoming resilient. This can be done by halting deforestation and instead even planting more trees. Forests are one of the ways of sequestering carbon out of the air. Furthermore, they help reduce the intensity of floods by enabling the soil beneath them to absorb more water that will be released over time. This is on top of reducing soil erosion. And during the dry weather, forests are a formidable weapon against desertification.

Another way to adapt to climate change is by increasing the country’s preparedness. Things like acquiring the latest weather prediction technologies so as at warn communities early in advance as to what kind of weather to expect. This will help farmers know what to plant and when to plant. Also creating awareness in the communities about climate change so that they are not always caught flat-footed in case of changes to the climate.

Another major way of mitigating climate change is the use of clean energy. As of now, over 90% of the citizens use firewood for cooking. This stresses the existing forest resources that are a big asset in fighting climate change. Instead, clean energies such as wind and solar can be adopted. Biogas is also another source of energy that can be considered.

But all this will not be possible without help from the more developed nations. On top of them being the ones highly responsible for causing climate change, they have advanced technologies that come quite handy, plus they can give aid to help the country equip its citizens against the effects of climate change. This is a global problem that should be dealt with as such.

The author graduated from Kenyatta University, Kenya, with BSc of Environmental Science, founder of South Sudan Environmental Advocators (SSEA) and can be reached via his email: philipdot57@gmail.com

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