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Climate change poses severe risks for ecosystems, human health

Hundreds of pastoralists Uganda suffer drought bites in recent past. (PHOTO/File)

KAMPALA – There is evidence that Uganda’s climate is changing and threatening the environmental, social and economic development, including the agricultural sector.

In Uganda, climate change and increased weather variability has been observed and is manifested in the increase in frequency and intensity of weather extremes, including high temperatures leading to prolonged drought and erratic rainfall patterns.

The country is now facing rising heavy rainfall patterns that are scattered across the country, flooding, mudslides, storms, droughts and frequent and intense heat due to climate change, a commissioner for climate change at Climate Change Unit at the Ministry of Water and Environment has said.

Mr. Chebet Maikut, a commissioner at Climate change Unit says a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change indicates that the earth’s average surface temperature has risen by 0.76 degrees Celsius and will continue to rise and cause adverse effects on the agricultural production.

Mr. Chebet told PML Daily that Uganda is mainly affected by human-induced climate change and that the human-induced climate change is likely to increase average temperatures in Uganda by up to 1.5 ºC in the next 20 years and by up to 4.3 ºC by the 2080s.

He revealed that Uganda’s climate is naturally variable and susceptible to flood and drought events which are having negative socio-economic impacts and that Uganda has become high Greenhouse Gas emitter that causes global warming because the real issues affecting the environment have not been addressed.

He noted that farmers used to plant in March and harvest in June/ July but that everything has changed, they can’t tell their seasons, the rains have changed and now pour a little or too much then disappear.

Mr Chebet explained that the ministry thinks that better and more flexible adaptation strategies, policies and measures are crucial today the country is to lessen these impacts but that eco-system approach is also needed to enable government take up development.

‘Climate change is here to stay and the scale of future climate change and its impacts will depend on the effectiveness of implementing our world agreements to cut greenhouse gas emissions and also ensuring that we have the right adaptation strategies to reduce the risks from current and projected climate extremes,” said Mr Chebet.

This comes at a time a paper prepared by Mr. Lawrence Aribo, the principal climate change officer at the Ministry of Water and Environment said increasing intensities and frequencies of heavy rains, floods, landslides, an outbreak of waterborne diseases associated with floods indicates man has tampered with nature.

The paper [Climate change science, impacts and responses] urges local government planners in the country to integrate climate change into the development policies of their districts and planning processes and ensure the emissions not become a threat to the living conditions in Uganda.

Reports from the Climate Change Unit indicate that the main health effects of climate change are linked to extreme weather events, changes in the distribution of climate-sensitive diseases, and changes in environmental and social conditions.

The Mbale District Environment Officer Mr James Wakube says the government should promote energy sustaining mechanisms by marketing energy saving stoves at community levels and encourage people to plant trees at homesteads to save the country from climate change.

Mr Wakube explained that although mainstreaming of climate change adaptation into other policies is progressing, it needs to be enhanced further.

He said that other possible further actions should include improving policy coherence across different policy areas and governance levels, more flexible adaptive management approaches, a combination of technological solutions, ecosystem-based approaches and ‘soft’ measures.

“Improved knowledge would be useful in various areas, for example, on vulnerability and risk assessments at various scales and on monitoring, reporting and evaluation of adaptation actions, their costs and benefits,” said Mr Wakube, also an environmentalist.

Climate change hotspots

According to Mr Chebet, apart from the cattle corridor, Mt Elgon and Mt Rwenzori regions are vulnerable to climate change.

He added that projection also reveals that Rukungiri district which is outside the cattle area and Mountain low lying areas will experience more negative impacts while Karamoja sub-region is projected to be another climate change hotspot, as it is expected to face the highest number of adverse impacts.

He revealed that Karamoja region already experiences large increases in heat extremes and decreases in precipitation, which have heightened the risk of more severe droughts, lower crop yields, biodiversity loss and forest fires.

Mr Chebet explained that more frequent heat waves and changes in the distribution of climate-sensitive infectious diseases are expected to increase risks to human health and well-being.

Mt Elgon sub-region is projected to experience more mudslides due to heavy rainfall patterns; there will be increased risk of flooding in Bukedi sub-regions while Teso sub-region will face severe heat.

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