Cli­mate ac­tivists from African na­tions make ur­gent ap­peal

Times-Herald (Vallejo) - - WEATHER - By Dorothee Thiesing and Cara Anna

STOCKHOLM, SWE­DEN >> Ugan­dan cli­mate ac­tivist Vanessa Nakate and peers from other African na­tions on Fri­day made an ur­gent ap­peal for the world to pay more at­ten­tion to the con­ti­nent that stands to suf­fer the most from global warm­ing de­spite con­tribut­ing to it the least.

The Fri­days For Fu­ture move­ment and ac­tivist Greta Thun­berg held a news con­fer­ence with the ac­tivists to spot­light the marginal­iza­tion of African voices a week af­ter The As­so­ci­ated Press cropped Nakate out of a photo at the World Economic Fo­rum in Davos, Switzer­land.

Nakate, Makenna Muigai of Kenya, Ayakha Melithafa of South Africa and cli­mate sci­en­tist Ndoni Mcunu of South Africa pointed out the var­i­ous chal­lenges both in com­bat­ing cli­mate change on the boom­ing con­ti­nent of some 1.2 bil­lion people and in in­spir­ing the world’s re­sponse.

“African ac­tivists are do­ing so much,” Nakate said. “It gets so frus­trat­ing when no one re­ally cares about them.”

The AP has apol­o­gized and ac­knowl­edged mis­takes in send­ing out the cropped photo on Jan. 24 and in how the news or­ga­ni­za­tion ini­tially re­acted. The AP has said that it will ex­pand di­ver­sity training world­wide as a re­sult.

Nakate said Fri­day she was very sad the photo in­ci­dent oc­curred but added that “I’m ac­tu­ally very op­ti­mistic about this” as it has drawn global at­ten­tion to cli­mate ac­tivists in Africa and the var­i­ous crises there.

Muigai pointed to a re­cent lo­cust out­break that parts of East Africa have seen in 70 years, which threat­ens food se­cu­rity for mil­lions of people in coun­tries in­clud­ing Kenya, Ethiopia and So­ma­lia and is mov­ing to­ward South Su­dan and Uganda.

Chal­lenges in­clude ev­ery­thing from de­for­esta­tion to bad en­ergy poli­cies, Muigai said. They also in­clude changes in storm in­ten­sity that brought two dev­as­tat­ing cy­clones to Mozam­bique a year ago, Mcunu said. And they in­clude the re­cent drought cri­sis in South Africa’s Cape Town re­gion, Melithafa said.

“The nar­ra­tive we have is Africans can adapt to this. That is ac­tu­ally not true,” Mcunu said.

The warn­ings have been stark for Africa. No con­ti­nent will be struck more se­verely by cli­mate change, the U.N. En­vi­ron­ment Pro­gram has said.

Africa has 15% of the world’s pop­u­la­tion, yet is likely to “shoul­der nearly 50% of the es­ti­mated global cli­mate change adap­ta­tion costs,” the African Devel­op­ment Bank has said, not­ing that seven of the 10 coun­tries con­sid­ered most vul­ner­a­ble to cli­mate change are in Africa: Sierra Leone, Nige­ria, Chad, Cen­tral African Repub­lic, South Su­dan, Ethiopia and Eritrea.

And yet “to date, en­er­gyre­lated CO emis­sions in Africa rep­re­sented around 2% of cu­mu­la­tive global emis­sions,” the In­ter­na­tional En­ergy Agency said last year.

In some cases it is dif­fi­cult to per­suade people to care more about cli­mate change be­cause there are so many other press­ing ev­ery­day is­sues such as poverty, un­em­ploy­ment and gen­der-based vi­o­lence, Melithafa said. “That’s hard for the global north to un­der­stand.”

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