‘We can save our planet’

Lesotho Times - - Big Interview -

THE Le­sotho Me­te­o­ro­log­i­cal­gi­cal Ser­vices on Satur­day held Earth Hour cel­e­bra­tions at Maseru Mall. The eventvent was graced by Her Majesty Queen ueen ’Mase­n­ate Mo­hato Berengg Seeiso, who is also the Am­bas­sador of Earth Hour Le­sotho. En­ergy and Me­te­o­rol­ogy Min­is­ter Se­libe Mo­choboroane, and other se­nior govern­ment of­fi­cials were also at the com­mem­o­ra­tion.

Earth Hour is or­gan­ised by the World Wide Fund for Na­ture (WWF) — an in­ter­na­tional non-gov­ern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tion founded on 29 April 1961 to work in the field of bio­di­ver­sity con­ser­va­tion and the re­duc­tion of hu­man­ity’s foot­print on the en­vi­ron­ment. Started as a lights-off f event in Syd­ney, Aus­tralia in 2007, Earth Hour has since been held an­nu­ally to­wards the end of March to en­cour­age in­di­vid­u­als, com­mu­ni­ties, house­holds and busi­nesses to turn off their non-es­sen­tial lights from 8:30 to 9:30 pm, as a sym­bol for their com­mit­ment to the planet. To­day, Earth Hour en­gages a mas­sive main­stream com­mu­nity on a broad range of en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues.

Prin­ci­pal Me­te­o­rol­o­gist, Mokoena France, speaks with Le­sotho Times ( LT) reporter, Lekhetho Nt­sukun­yane, about the event and other cli­mate-re­lated is­sues.

LT: Could you tell us more about Earth Hour and why it is im­por­tant to the broader com­mu­nity?

France: The Earth Hour aware­ness cam- paign started in 2007 in Syd­ney, Aus­tralia. It was an ef­fort by or­di­nary cit­i­zens to make a clar­ion call and ex­ert pres­sure against fac­tors con­tribut­ing to cli­mate change. Ap­par­ently, at that time, the Aus­tralian govern­ment was scep­ti­cal about cli­mate change is­sues. So this ac­tu­ally was an ef­fort by civil so­ci­ety to put pres­sure on the au­thor­i­ties to come up with cli­mate-friendly poli­cies.

Like I said, this started in Syd­ney but then the cam­paign took mo­men­tum and spread to other coun­tries. Le­sotho joined the cam­paign in 2011. Be­cause this year, the last week of March when the event is sup- posed to be cel­e­brated, co­in­cidesco with Easter hol­i­days, Le­sotho de­cided to com­mem­o­rate it on 19 March.

LT: What hap­pens dur­ing­dur the com­mem­o­ra­tion?

France: The Earth H Hour cam­paign en­cour­ages the gen­eral p pub­lic to switch off all their non-es­sen­tial e elec­tri­cal ap­pli­ances in an at­tempt to redu re­duce green­house gas emis­sions. The cam­paign­cam is marked by turn­ing off all non-es­sen­tial­non elec­tri­cal ap­pli­ances for one hour be­tween 8:30 and 9:30pm. No Nor­mally, this is also ac­com­pa­nied b by cel­e­bra­tions at a par­tic­u­lar ven venue. How­ever, peo­ple are not forced to turntu off their lights, but should­shoul do so vol­un­tar­ily. It is a vol­un­tary process. This does not only save the cli­mate but also the en­ergy used. So the cli­max of the event is when the lights are turned off dur­ing that peak hour.

LT: Has Her Majesty al­ways been in­volved in Le­sotho’s com­mem­o­ra­tions of Earth Hour?

France: First of all, this event is driven by civil so­ci­ety and or­gan­ised by Khaya Hold­ings. As govern­ment, we just come in as a part­ner. Her Majesty, on the other hand, ac­cepted to be the Am­bas­sador of Earth Hour in Le­sotho last year. This means she could not have ac­tively taken part in the event be­fore then.

Last year, she made a speech that was aired on na­tional tele­vi­sion. You will re­mem­ber that the new govern­ment was elected in Fe­bru­ary last year. So the govern­ment could not also ac­tively be part of the event be­cause it had just been elected. How­ever, this year, we were fully part of the event.

LT: What does en­ergy or the use of elec­tric­ity have to do with the cli­mate?

France: Cli­mate change is caused by what is com­monly termed global warm­ing. Global warm­ing means the in­crease of the global av­er­age tem­per­a­ture due to the in­crease of green­house gas emis­sions into the at­mos­phere. By green­house gases, we mean car­bon-diox­ide and oth­ers.

Th­ese gases, when they con­gest in the at­mos­phere, af­fect the cli­mate. It is im­por­tant to men­tion where th­ese green­house gases come from. For in­stance, most of the elec­tric­ity we use is gen­er­ated through burn­ing coal. And as you burn the coal, car­bon-diox­ide is pro­duced.

So the more we use elec­tric­ity, the more it needs to be gen­er­ated, hence more car­bon-diox­ide emis­sions into the at­mos­phere. This is why we are say­ing let us re­duce en­ergy us­age to save the cli­mate. That is the whole idea.

LT: What are con­se­quences of cli­mate change?

France: The con­se­quences come in dif­fer­ent forms de­pend­ing on lo­ca­tion, but they are all dan­ger­ous. Th­ese in­clude ex­ces­sive heat, which also leads to a rise in the sea level. When there is too much heat, it melts the ice nor­mally found in some parts of the seas. The melt­ing in­creases wa­ter vol­umes. And where there are coasts, in some other coun­tries, it means the wa­ter level rise is go­ing to af­fect the set­tle­ments. The same hap­pens with is­lands.

Al­ready there is a pro­jec­tion that some is­land coun­tries will soon sink below wa­ter lev­els. Cli­mate change also af­fects the fresh­ness of wa­ter in gen­eral while it also causes se­vere drought. This fur­ther af­fects agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion, lead­ing to poverty. It af­fects our nat­u­ral veg­e­ta­tion. It erad­i­cates some of the good veg­e­ta­tion we have in the coun­try. Some of the veg­e­ta­tion we use for medicine as Ba­sotho.

Com­ing to the health sec­tor, there are some dis­eases which can­not be found in Le­sotho al­though they are ram­pant in other coun­tries. This is be­cause of the cli­mate that we have. For in­stance, there is what is called trop­i­cal dis­eases, like malaria, found in very hot coun­tries. If we also have the same cli­mate with tem­per­a­tures in­creas­ing to that level then it means those dis­eases are go­ing to find their way into Le­sotho. And as new dis­eases in the coun­try, it means it will take us more time to find ways to deal with them. It’s a big chal­lenge for us.

Cli­mate change even af­fects cul­ture. It af­fects our sea­sons of the year. It is such a dras­tic change be­cause it will even de­ter­mine what we should eat. It af­fects the econ­omy of a coun­try.

LT: There is de­bate that Le­sotho is one of the coun­tries which do not emit green­house gases. It is ar­gued that de­vel­oped coun­tries are the ones emit­ting the gases which are caus­ing cli­mate change. Peo­ple, there­fore, sug­gest that we should not bother about th­ese is­sues…

France: Cli­mate change has two main the­matic ar­eas — mit­i­ga­tion and adap­ta­tion. Mit­i­ga­tion at­tempts to deal with the causes of cli­mate change, while adap­ta­tion deals with its im­pact. Rightly peo­ple are say­ing cli­mate change is caused by de­vel­oped coun­tries whose green­house gas emis­sions are mas­sive.

We call them big emit­ters. But the im­pact of cli­mate change is felt by us. Least-de­vel­oped coun­tries are the ones most vul­ner­a­ble to the im­pacts of cli­mate change. We have the United Na­tions Frame­work Con­ven­tion on Cli­mate Change where many coun­tries, in­clud­ing Le­sotho, are sig­na­to­ries to the doc­u­ment. If we can say the big-emit­ters should be the ones pressed to re­duce emis­sions and not us, we will not only be un­der­min­ing this con­ven­tion, but we are also go­ing to suf­fer a lot be­cause the big-emit­ters may not see any ur­gency to stop the emis­sions with­out us do­ing the same.

We need to do some­thing as much as they have to do some­thing them­selves. Re­mem­ber, the big-emit­ters have money and they can use it to adapt to cli­mate change. We don’t have the ca­pac­ity to eas­ily adapt our­selves. It means we will die. Peo­ple miss this in their ar­gu­ment.

Again, tech­nol­ogy is the in­te­gral part of de­vel­op­ment. Now, if we say the cli­mate was changed by the coun­tries us­ing ‘dirty’ tech­nol­ogy, it means we are say­ing they should change to ‘clean’ tech­nol­ogy. And while we say that you should re­mem­ber we don’t have the ca­pac­ity to even pro­duce ‘dirty’ tech­nol­ogy our­selves.

We are just con­sumers of what­ever tech­nol­ogy they pro­duce. This means we re­main with the chal­lenge of mov­ing to­wards the di­rec­tion where the rest of the world is go­ing. In any case, de­vel­oped coun­tries are also bound by the con­ven­tion to as­sist the least-de­vel­oped coun­tries with mit­i­ga­tion plans to fight cli­mate change.

Th­ese gases, when they con­gest in the at­mos­phere, af­fect the cli­mate. It is im­por­tant to men­tion where th­ese green­house gases come from. For in­stance, most of the elec­tric­ity we use is gen­er­ated through burn­ing coal. And as you burn the coal, car­bon-diox­ide is pro­duced

LT: Be­yond Earth Hour, what should Ba­sotho do to save the cli­mate?

France: The Earth Hour ini­tia­tive is just to make peo­ple aware that we have this op­por­tu­nity to save the planet from cli­mate change. If you are able to switch off lights and non-es­sen­tial ap­pli­ances for an hour and save en­ergy and the planet, imag­ine what that will do if it is prac­tised ev­ery day. If we can save so much in an hour, we make this part of our lives and save a lot more than we are sav­ing now.

We should try to use elec­tric­ity ef­fi­ciently all the time.

Prin­ci­pal Me­te­o­rol­o­gist Mokoena France

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