Pb climatechange web


Published on

Published in: Technology
  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

No Downloads
Total views
On SlideShare
From Embeds
Number of Embeds
Embeds 0
No embeds

No notes for slide

Pb climatechange web

  1. 1. Policy Briefing SVEN TORFINN/PANOS PICTURESPOLICY BRIEFING #3 OCTOBER 2009Least responsible,most affected,least informed:public understanding of climate change in AfricaSign up for our monthly e-newsletter: bbcworldservicetrust.org
  2. 2. LEAST RESPONSIBLE, MOST AFFECTED, LEAST INFORMED: PUBLIC UNDERSTANDING OF CLIMATE CHANGE IN AFRICA Introduction The information flow on climate change to date has principally been from the rest of the world to Africa. African citizens are least responsible for generating the It needs to be replaced by a sustained dialogue and greenhouse gases that are causing the global climate to two-way flow of information that empowers African change. Yet they are already suffering, and will continue citizens and ensures publics and politicians in countries to suffer, some of the most devastating consequences of mainly responsible for causing climate change are better climate change. This policy briefing, rooted in detailed informed of African realities and perspectives. research carried out across six African countries, argues that African citizens both need and have the right to In December 2009, more than 15,000 people will gather information on how human-induced climate change will at the 15th United Nations Framework Convention on impact on their lives and how they can adapt. It also Climate Change (UNFCCC) conference known as the argues that African citizens have a major role in educating Conference of Parties (COP 15) in Copenhagen for what those principally responsible for climate change about many hope can be a definitive moment in human history: its true impact. to reach a revised global agreement on tackling climate Front cover image change by reducing greenhouse gases and providing Teshoma Abera stands African citizens are at humanity’s climate change resources for countries to adapt where possible to the in his barren and frontline, yet according to this research they are also impacts. The degree to which these negotiations are infertile field. After just among the least informed about human-induced global successful is likely to determine how many people will two days of rain in the climate change, its causes and its consequences. Broader have their lives wrecked or ended by climate change. year, his crops have public understanding of a range of climate change issues African citizens are among those who have most at stake failed dramatically is required if Africa is to respond and adapt to climate at the negotiations. Below Bayissa Urgessa change. Better public understanding will also be neces- conducts a focus group sary to enable those most affected by climate change Throughout 2009 the BBC World Service Trust, with the with agro-pastoralists, to communicate their perspectives and experiences to support of the British Council, has been asking African Ethiopia, May 2009 those most responsible for causing it. citizens for their knowledge and perspectives on climateSELAM AYALEW/BBCWST 2 BBC WORLD SERVICE TRUST POLICY BRIEFING #3 OCTOBER 2009
  3. 3. change as part of a broader research and communica- factors complicating meaningful action on environmentaltion initiative, Africa Talks Climate. This groundbreaking degradation and climate change in Africa.research has systematically gathered the views of farmersand fishermen, pastoralists and business people, women • There is a trend for some African citizens to attribute weather changes (in part or in full) to God, gods orand men, rich and poor, rural and urban. The findings fate. The potential role of religious and faith leaders indraw on focus group discussions with more than 1,000 informing and catalysing responses to climate changepeople in Nigeria (pilot), Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, would appear to be substantial.Senegal and Uganda (phase one); and DR Congo, SouthAfrica, Sudan and Tanzania (phase two). This briefing • It has taken western publics and politicians more thanis based on research findings from the first six of these 20 years (some would argue much longer) to begincountries. An Executive Summary and 10 country reports to develop the political response to the climate crisisfrom Africa Talks Climate will be published separately, and which the evidence warrants. Environmental issues,will be available from the Africa Talks Climate website however, tend to impact far more urgently on people’s(www.africatalksclimate.com). lives in the countries in which thisSummary of policy conclusions research was conducted, and the potential may exist for African “ The information flow political and public opinion to on climate change to date• African public awareness of the environment – and leapfrog the tortuous evolution particularly of environmental degradation – is strong, of western public (and perhaps has principally been from principally because environmental issues impact so political) responses to climate the rest of the world to immediately on the daily lives of African citizens and change. • The Intergovernmental Panel on Africa. This needs to be have done so for many years.• There is a near universal sense across all the people Climate Change (IPCC) places replaced by a sustained interviewed – from pastoralists to politicians, fisher- Africa at special risk from climate folk to urban commuters – that the “weather” is change, in part because of its lack dialogue that empowers ” changing (the term “climate” is rarely used, or is used of capacity to adapt to chang- interchangeably with “weather”). ing environmental realities. African citizens Sufficient support to enable African governments and• There is a strong tendency for Africans to hold citizens to adapt to climate change will be a key ingre- themselves individually or collectively responsible for changes in the environment and the weather which dient of any successful international treaty. A major they blame on environmental degradation caused locally. policy conclusion of this report is that meeting the Deforestation, localised pollution, and overpopulation information and communication needs of African citizens should be considered as a critical component are all factors perceived as causing changes to the of adaptation strategies around climate change. weather. Sometimes governments are blamed, some- times industry or other communities or sectors are • Providing African citizens with the information they blamed, and sometimes factors beyond human control need to respond and adapt to climate change is just are invoked (especially God). But when considering one component of probable forthcoming debates the idea of human responsibility, Africans hold them- around climate change in Africa. A central issue is selves significantly responsible and accountable for the one of environmental justice. African citizens will be environmental degradation and changes in the weather among the most affected by climate change but are least they experience. responsible for the greenhouse gases that have caused it. They cannot make just demands on the rest of the• There is little awareness that the climatic problems world, or determine properly their own political and facing Africa – now or in the future – are likely to have other responses to this emerging crisis, without being causes that extend beyond their own continent. informed about its causes and its consequences. African African lives will be severely impacted by carbon dioxide citizens need better information on climate change, but emissions generated overwhelmingly by the rest of the they also need far better ways of communicating their world. When this realisation takes hold their response reality and perceptions on the issue to those principally is unpredictable. responsible for causing it.• African citizens are among the least informed about • The media in Africa, together with schools, are critical human-induced global climate change, its causes and sources of information on climate change. More con- its consequences. This lack of information is severely certed, better organised and researched information inhibiting the capacity of African citizens both to adapt and communication efforts will be essential if to climate change, and to exert influence both inter- African citizens are to have the capacity and opportunity nationally and on their own governments to ensure an to respond effectively to climate change. It is hoped that appropriate and urgent response to the scale of the this policy briefing, and the broader research initiative threat they face. on which it rests, will constitute a useful contribution• Once public understanding of the severity of to such efforts. climate change impact develops, and awareness The main findings of this briefing are summarised in the increases that international factors beyond their control points above. The remainder falls into three parts: are responsible, a rational response may well be one of anger directed at those responsible. The first provides some background placing current public understanding of climate change in a historical context.• A window of opportunity exists for the international The second outlines how Africa is least responsible, most community to persuade African citizens that the rest of the world is serious about mitigating the worst of the affected and least informed about climate change. devastating potential impacts of climate change on the The third draws some conclusions and implications for continent. If that window is closed, blame, recrimination the Copenhagen summit and other international policy – and possibly despair – may become major additional debates from the research.SIGN UP FOR OUR MONTHLY E-NEWSLETTER: BBCWORLDSERVICETRUST.ORG 3
  4. 4. LEAST RESPONSIBLE, MOST AFFECTED, LEAST INFORMED: PUBLIC UNDERSTANDING OF CLIMATE CHANGE IN AFRICACOURTESY OF AP PHOTO / REBECCA BLACKWELL Horse cart drivers transport goods and passengers through deep flood waters in Sicap Mbao, Dakar, Senegal, September 2009 1 Earthscan/International Environmental degradation “Africa has taken too much from its land”, argued a 1985 report from Earthscan/International Institute for Institute for Environment in Africa Environment and Development (IIED). “It has overdrawn and Development (IIED) its environmental accounts and the result for much of Africa (1985), Lloyd Timberlake, This briefing seeks to focus specifically on climate change, rather than the environment. Yet a major challenge for the has been environmental bankruptcy. The big farm schemes Africa in Crisis: the causes, the cures of environmental research on which it is based was extricating insight into of the Northern experts, and the small efforts to stay alive of bankruptcy the issue of climate change from more generalised public the rapidly growing rural populations have overcultivated, perspectives on the environmental problems facing Africa. overgrazed and deforested the soil”, it concluded. 2 Club du Sahel/CILSS, This is unsurprising. The externally generated impacts of More than a decade earlier, the appalling droughts that (September 1981) climate change already affecting Africa take place against afflicted the Sahel from 1968–72, killing between 50,000 “The Sahel Drought a backdrop of long-standing internally generated natural and 250,000 people2 (contemporary estimates varied Control and Development resource degradation. greatly) and millions of animals, were triggered by a lack Programme, 1975 of rain. Whether drought was an early symptom of climate – 1979” put the figure Acute environmental degradation in Africa is not a recent phenomenon and is a product of years of abuse change or of natural climatic variation is a subject of scientific at around 50,000 of natural resources reaching back to the colonial era. dispute. Its effects, however, were greatly exacerbated by – 100,000. The UN Conference on It was already a focus of significant research and analysis human activity. According to most of the research at the Desertification (1977) more than a quarter of a century ago. Africa’s environ- time, drought was not principally responsible for people estimated as many as mental capital has already suffered major withdrawals dying – it was overcultivation and overgrazing of the land 150,000 had died. over recent decades and was in many areas overdrawn that left no margin when drought arrived.3 3 years ago. Sometimes environmental degradation has prompted See for example, The 1984-5 Ethiopian famine claimed the lives of up to acute crises by triggering floods, droughts and famines. Earthscan (1982), Alan one million people. It was attributed not only to drought, Sometimes it has been chronic in nature, taking the form Grainger, Desertification: misgovernance and a lack of aid, but to “environmental of water and air pollution, uncollected rubbish or open How people make bankruptcy” caused by years of deforestation, soil erosion sewers. It has resulted from poor governance, overpopula- deserts, how they can and overexploitation of other natural resources1. tion, an inequitable international trading system and – as stop and why they don’t. 4 BBC WORLD SERVICE TRUST POLICY BRIEFING #3 OCTOBER 2009
  5. 5. was the case in South Africa during Apartheid – from naked People who are severely impacted by climate change racial injustice forcing too many people onto too little land will be better able to adapt if they are informed about in the interests of a small minority. the issue. Farmers need to change the varieties of the seeds they plant, the crops they grow and the times Ultimately however, pre-existing, long-standing and they sow and reap. Water and other resources need to increasingly devastating environmental degradation be husbanded far more carefully, floods and droughts provides the backdrop to the relatively recent narrative to be anticipated and planned for, “ of climate change in Africa. Substantial governmental, livelihoods and businesses need to intergovernmental and non-governmental efforts have change and adapt. Significant planning There appears to been made to address such degradation internationally and resources are already beginning be a clear demand for dating back at least to the 1972 UN Conference on the to be spent on adapting to climate change in Africa, but these will need information that enables Human Environment, and the follow-up Earth Summits in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and Johannesburg in 2002. Climate change is an increasing and intensifying factor to be greatly scaled up in future. people to adapt to ” The experience of the industrialised world is that political and public environmental change potentially threatening the habitability of significant parts of Africa. It needs to be viewed against a backdrop of serious ongoing environmental degradation reaching back action on climate change takes many several decades. years, arguably many decades, to translate scientific understanding of the issue to a stage where meaningful Our research suggests that this is how many African citizens action is contemplated. It has taken politicians and publics regard it – not least because they experience the direct this long in industrialised countries, despite multi-million impact of environmental degradation on their lives day in dollar research centres, highly sophisticated media and and day out. communication infrastructures, high standards of educa- tion and rich reservoirs of civic and political action. The Does it matter that people know about climate prospects for serious political and public action in Africa change? might therefore seem bleak. This is all the more the case An assumption might be made that African citizens have far given the many other pressing calls upon the time, money more urgent issues to worry about than their environment and resources of the most affected populations and their or climate change. In fact, much of our research suggests governments. that people are deeply concerned about their changing environment. In general, the poorer people are, the more Many of the findings of our research imply the opposite. they understand just how vulnerable they are to shifts in The acute impact of environmental change on the lives of the life support systems that sustain them, and how poorly African citizens suggest that there is already a far more protected they are from the extreme consequences of a urgent interest in these issues than there is in other parts change in climate. of the world, especially the west. There appears to be a clear demand for information that enables people to adapt The potential appears to exist to translate this intense to environmental change, particularly if it gives people sense of environmental awareness fostered by vulnerability realistic options of how to do so. to environmental change into a broader concern around human-induced climate change. If this is the case, why There is much less apparent demand for information on and how does it matter that citizens have better access the causes of those changes. This is largely because there to information on climate change? is little notion of where that responsibility principally lies. Bayissa Urgessa interviews agro-pastoralist, Ethiopia, May 2009SELAM AYALEW/BBCWST 5
  6. 6. LEAST RESPONSIBLE, MOST AFFECTED, LEAST INFORMED: PUBLIC UNDERSTANDING OF CLIMATE CHANGE IN AFRICA Least responsible, most are in Africa, collectively emitted less than 0.7% of total carbon emissions … Altogether, African countries affected, least informed emitted only 4% of all carbon – 2.6% if South Africa is excluded.”4 Least responsible: “If all countries were to pollute so little, there would be no climate change” “If all countries were to pollute so little, there would be4 no climate change”, it continues. Thirty out of the 40 lowest per capita emitters of carbonGlobal Humanitarian dioxide in the world are African countries. The 50 least Figure 1 (below, top), taken from the report, illustratesForum (2009) HumanImpact Report: developed countries in the world – the majority African graphically just how little responsibility Africa his-Climate Change, – contribute less than 1% of global carbon emissions. torically bears for the climate change which will affect it.The Anatomy of a Silent A 2009 report from the Global Humanitarian Forum, Figure 2 (below, bottom) further shows the disproportion-Crisis, introduction by chaired by Kofi Annan, states: “The top 20 countries ate degree to which African nations suffer from healthKofi Annan most vulnerable to climate change in 2004, 15 of which burdens related to climate change.Above Figure 1: World map reflecting carbon emissions(Annual aggregate national carbon emissions 2000) © Copyright 2006 SASI Group (University of Sheffield) and Mark Newman (University of Michigan).Reproduced in Anatomy of a Silent Crisis, Global Humanitarian Forum 2009Above Figure 2: World map reflecting mortality related to climate changeSource: Climate Change and Global Health: Quantifying a Growing Ethical Crisis, 2007, Jonathan A. Patz, Holly K. Gibbs, Jonathan A. Foley, Jamesine V.Rogers, and Kirk R. Smith reproduced in Anatomy of a Silent Crisis, Global Humanitarian Forum 20096 BBC WORLD SERVICE TRUST POLICY BRIEFING #3 OCTOBER 2009
  7. 7. Key impacts Agriculture and food security Environmental degradation causes resource scarcity, According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate reducing the supply of usually renewable resources of Change (IPCC), by 2020, yields from rain-fed agricul- food and fresh water, and non-renewable resources ture could be reduced by up to 50% in some African such as land. countries. Food prices, which have already risen in The links between environmental degradation and recent years (due to a range of economic, environ- increased political tension and conflict have been mental and other factors) and are having devastating highlighted for many years: “In the complex web effects on people living in poverty in many African of causes leading to social and political instability, countries, can be expected to increase further. bloodshed and war, environmental degradation is In 2008, extreme drought in Uganda, where more playing an increasingly important role - this is the than 80% of the population depend on rain-fed ‘Greenwar factor’”, argued a 1991 report from the subsistence farming, reduced agricultural output by as Panos Institute, Greenwar: environment and conflict. much as 30%, according to the Global Humanitarian Climate change is, however, predicted to greatly Forum. In late 2009, extreme drought is wreaking exacerbate conflict in Africa and is, in some cases, havoc in Kenya, leaving four million people dependent already doing so. Examples of climate change-related on food aid. conflicts already happening provided by the Global Food aid and other food imports may also become Humanitarian Forum include “fighting between scarcer as major predicted impacts of climate change pastoralists and farmers in the Oromia and Ogaden materialise. The mid-west United States, one of regions of Ethiopia, inter-clan fighting in Somalia, and the main grain producing areas in the world and the increased fighting during drought periods in Nigeria”. source of substantial current food aid, is also expected It is worth noting however, that the capacity for to be heavily affected by climate change. large-scale conflict caused by environmental degrada- tion has been highlighted over many years and has not Water: too little and too much so far materialised to the extent predicted. In 1985, Climate change makes the hydrological cycle which Egypt’s then Minister of State for Foreign Affairs (and drives our weather patterns more powerful. Droughts later United Nations Secretary General) Dr Boutros become more intense and more frequent. So do Boutros-Ghali, warned that “the next war in our floods. Rainfall patterns in many parts of Africa have region will be over the waters of the Nile, not politics”. already changed markedly. Conflict over water resources has been a particular fear “Rainfall has decreased by 4% on average each but there are longstanding examples – such as around decade since the 1970s in western Africa, and 2.4% sharing water reserves of the River Nile – where peace- per decade in tropical rainforest regions”, says the ful negotiation and cooperation have so far succeeded. Global Humanitarian Forum. “Complicating the picture, in some dry areas like Morocco, seasonal rain showers will likely become more intense, which can produce unusually severe and damaging flooding.” Poverty: the cruellest irony It is a cruel irony that the countries that will be most affected by climate change are those where people are in the worst position to adapt to it. The “It is a cruel irony The IPCC predicts that “by the 2080s, many millions more people than today are projected to experience Global Humanitarian Forum has focused its analysis that the particularly on the human impact of climate change and floods every year due to sea level rise. The numbers concludes that “because the poor tend to live in geo- countries affected will be largest in the densely populated and low-lying megadeltas of Asia and Africa while small graphical and climatic regions that are naturally most that will be vulnerable to climate change, their capacity to adapt islands are especially vulnerable”. is easily overwhelmed by the impact of the changing most affected Health: climate change has already had an impact conditions. They have the fewest assets to rely on in the event of a shock – whether it be a weather related by climate Africans are already dying as a result of climate change. The World Health Organization (WHO) disaster, a bad harvest or a family member falling ill”. change are estimates that at the turn of the millennium, 2% of all diarrhoeal disease-related deaths and deaths The same report argues that more than ten million people worldwide have fallen into poverty today those where from malaria and malnutrition worldwide could be because of climate change. people are attributed to climate change, the vast majority of them in Africa. What good news? in the worst The prospects for the future are much graver, Not all the climate change-related impacts on Africa will be negative. Climate change is projected to bring position to ” however. Up to 80 million more people will be exposed to malaria in Africa if warming extends to 4 some benefits in temperate areas, such as fewer adapt to it deaths from cold exposure, and some mixed effects degrees for example. Malnutrition is expected by the such as changes in range and transmission potential IPCC to become more common, and declining crop of malaria in Africa. Heavier concentrations of carbon yields are likely to leave “hundreds of millions without dioxide in the atmosphere helps plants grow, so it is the ability to produce or purchase sufficient food, possible that the many negative agricultural impacts particularly in Africa”. will be partially offset by some increased fertility. Conflict and Instability Unfortunately, very few scientists believe that such The causes of conflict in Africa, as elsewhere, are factors will significantly outweigh the dramatic complex and various but, as elsewhere, a principal negative effects of the expected climate change driver of conflict is over control of resources. impacts on Africa.SIGN UP FOR OUR MONTHLY E-NEWSLETTER: BBCWORLDSERVICETRUST.ORG 7
  8. 8. LEAST RESPONSIBLE, MOST AFFECTED, LEAST INFORMED: PUBLIC UNDERSTANDING OF CLIMATE CHANGE IN AFRICA Most affected: how climate change will impact Africa The different countries were chosen to reflect a range of Africa, together with the Arctic and some parts of Asia, regions, cultures and experiences. Research participants will be among the regions most impacted by climate ranged from rural pastoralists through to cabinet ministers, change in the world, according to scientific consensus. It urban town dwellers through to fisherfolk. is especially vulnerable because of “low adaptive capac- In each country, fieldwork locations were selected in ity and projected climate change impacts, and because consultation with a national advisory network to represent its megadeltas – such as the Niger delta – have “large areas experiencing environmental challenges which have populations and high exposure to sea level rise, storm been linked to, or are predicted to be, exacerbated by surges and river flooding.”5 climate change. Geographic, ethnic, linguistic and urban/ The science of climate change makes grim reading. Dr rural diversity were also considered. The citizen focus Rajendra Pachauri, Nobel Prize-winning chair of the IPCC groups were single sex, and involved approximately eight argues that a 2 degree Celsius rise in global temperatures people. Participants in each focus group were of a similar by 2050 is inevitable even if humanity emits no further age and socio-economic class or profession. Moderators emissions of carbon dioxide, the main were of the same gender and spoke the same language“People are intensely gas driving climate change. as the participants. For the opinion formers, one-to-one According to the Global Humanitarian interviews were conducted with policy-makers, religiousenvironmentally Forum, “more than one third of the leaders, business people, journalists and civil society leaders.aware and perceive an world’s population change … people vulnerable to climate are physically In each case, verbatim local language and English transcriptsincreasing and deeply living in low-lying areas, the semi-arid were produced for each focus group and interview. These land belt along the Sahel that separates were systematically coded by a team of internationaldisturbing deterioration Africa’s arid north from more fertile researchers using a common list of codes to group andin their environment ” areas, easily flooded regions on the cluster the data. Codes were then analysed to identify the Equator, and glacier regions are most insights and emerging themes. Fieldwork was conducted likely to be affected.” The same report in two phases and was carried out between May and argues that sub-Saharan Africa is at the October 2009. most immediate risk of climate change-induced floods and droughts. Public action and engagement with climate change in Africa at the civil society and governmental level has increased Several of the most respected climate change scientists markedly in recent years and months. This briefing, how- have become progressively more pessimistic in recent ever, focuses explicitly on broader public understanding of years and months and believe that climate change is the issue rather than on civil society and political action. happening “faster than many people thought possible.”6 It draws principally on research from the focus groups Most continue to believe that, providing tough and binding rather than one-to-one interviews. Conclusions reached commitments are reached to rapidly reduce global emis- were drawn from research from Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, sions, it will be possible to stave off global temperature Nigeria, Senegal and Uganda. increases beyond 2 degrees (an increase which in itself will have disastrous consequences for some places). If an Main findings agreement is not reached soon to limit carbon dioxide emissions, increases of 4 degrees and more become likely. Intense environmental awareness At its worst, such a scenario would see large parts of Africa People are intensely environmentally aware and perceive become uninhabitable. an increasing and deeply disturbing deterioration in their environment. Environmental degradation is seen as an issue Least informed: how citizens in Africa perceive of personal and often profound individual impact. Farmers climate change see their crops failing through increased temperatures, “A set of exploratory studies and mental model drought and flood, urban dwellers experience increased interviews were conducted in order to characterise public pollution, garbage and sewage problems, fisherpeople5 understanding of climate change … [people tended] to report declining fish catches. No-one who participatedIntergovernmental confuse stratospheric ozone depletion with the greenhouse in this research considers the environment as unimportant.Panel on Climate effect and weather with climate … Additionally, the Almost all see it as something that deeply affects their ownChange (IPCC) (2007), ‘greenhouse effect‘ was often interpreted literally as the circumstance.Fourth Assessment cause of a hot and steamy climate”Report (AR4) Climate Much environmental degradation is a result of soil erosion, “What do people know about climate change?”Change 2007 (p. 52) overfishing, deforestation and other non climate-related Journal of Risk Analysis USA, Vol 14 No 6, 1994 factors and there is a keen understanding of this:6 The quote above reflects the state of public understanding “The changes in the air and the soil erosion in the mountainsHans Joachim of climate change in the United States in the 1990s. The have made it difficult to grow trees, they just dry up as soonSchellnhuber— Founding Director, limited research carried out on this issue in other countries as we plant them.”Potsdam Institute for has tended to reflect similar findings, dependent on how Male farmer, Amhara, north western EthiopiaClimate Impact Research much the issue has been a policy or media priority. It has(PIK); Member, been neither in Africa over recent years. “Even our fathers were fishermen – we are following in theirIntergovernmental footsteps, but nowadays you go fishing and just come back The research was designed to explore public under- with a small catch. But when we were young, when wePanel on ClimateChange (IPCC) quoted standing and perspectives of climate change in Africa. went with them, it was a catch that Jesus used (laugh) longin Global Humanitarian Africa is a continent of 52 distinct, highly diverse coun- long ago – but nowadays you find that the waters of LakeForum (2009) Human tries, and the research on which this is based took place Victoria have gone down a long way.”Impact Report: in only six of them (research in a further four countries Fisherman, Ahero, western KenyaClimate Change, is underway). Some caution needs to be exercisedThe Anatomy of a therefore in drawing universal conclusions across the “You find that due to cutting down of trees there is soilSilent Crisis continent. erosion which ends up carrying away the fertile soil. Also the8 BBC WORLD SERVICE TRUST POLICY BRIEFING #3 OCTOBER 2009
  9. 9. forest contributes to bringing the rainfall and you find that SAM OTIENO / BBC WSTpeople are cutting down trees and you will automatically startseeing the land changing because there have been no rains.” Male, Nairobi, KenyaThe weather is changingA universal reflection across all people interviewed in allcountries participating in this research is a perceptionthat their weather patterns are changing. Droughts areperceived as happening more frequently and with greaterintensity. Food is becoming less reliably available andmore expensive, a factor which people associate withchanges in the weather. This perspective is generallyepitomised by a sense that the seasons are no longerpredictable:“Our weather has changed a lot. Before you could know andpredict when the rain will start and when it will stop... nowit is uncertain.” Male, Lagos, Nigeria“We lost our cattle due to drought. I sold some of them andthe rest are dead due to the long winter and lack of rain.” “Earthly things have changed, and it is because we have Above Patrick Maina Male agro-pastoralist, Oromia, southern Ethiopia started cutting down trees everywhere. Now strong winds moderates focus group“...Ten years ago we are not in this place. We migrated come and take our things away, and the rain too does not discussion, Isiolo, come regularly.” central Kenyafrom one village near Niger, because of shortage of food tofeed ourselves and our animals, our animals are dying, no Female, Jirapa, south western Ghanawater, everywhere is dry that is the reason why wemigrated from our place to settle here” “Toxins [affect the environment]. In Kampala we have cars, Herdsman, Jigawa, northern Nigeria industries, so the air in Kampala is not fresh, the vegetation is not natural.”“On the road leading to Bignona the mangrove used to be Male, Kampala, Ugandadense, but now it has completely disappeared, probablydue to the lack of rain.” “The forest coverage has decreased. The weather has Male, Ziguinchor, south western Senegal changed and there is an increase in temperature. When we were young there was plenty of rain and more trees.”“We have not had enough rain for the last four years and Female, Addis Ababa, Ethiopiathe animals we have get little or no grass. They begin to getdiseases that are related to famine and die.” Some implications of this key finding are outlined in the Female pastoralist, Isiolo, central Kenya last section of this briefing. Issues of governanceEnvironmental degradation is seen as having There is also a significant association of environmentaloverwhelmingly local causes degradation with either poor governance or absence ofThe causes of these changes are considered to be largely governance, and few expect any environmental issues tolocal, and specifically climate-related changes (which are be addressed – climate related or not – without substantialdescribed as changes in the weather) are not distinguished improvements in political governance.from broader environmental changes. “There is a structural problem in Africa”, argues oneCrucially, changes in the weather, such as decreasing senior African media figure also interviewed as part of therainfall or floods, are blamed overwhelmingly on local research. “You cannot see the impact of climate changefactors such as pollution and – above all – deforestation. in isolation from the political systems that are prevailingThe association between the weather and trees – and the in Africa. To combat climate change, it needs democracy;felling of them – is pronounced across all the research in it needs peace; it needs government committed to socio-all the countries. economic transformation; a government committed toAfrican citizens interviewed for this research largely lay the exploit the potentials in Africa”.blame for their environmental problems at their own door. Expectations of government responsiveness tend to varySometimes they blame their own behaviours, sometimes – as might be expected – greatly between countries, butthat of other communities or sectors or businesses. also between rural (where there are often low expecta-There is extremely limited understanding that some of tions of government action) and urban (where demandthe changes to their weather or climate may have causes for government action was often higher):beyond their own experience or country. The notion that “The water problem is brought about by our leadershipinternational pollution and other external factors may now starting from those at the helm. The president is the one whoor in the future be partly or increasingly responsible for should be solving our problems and he should empower thosedrought, floods or other climate-related problems in Africa below him to come and assist us to solve the problem ofis barely reflected in the research: water. Our lives have been destroyed because of lack of water.“A lot of problems happened due to that deforestation. For Our cattle are dying because of lack of water. When there wasexample, there was rain before, but now after the deforestation, water in the river, life was very good and even when there wasthe rain became scarce. Then drought happened.” drought, cattle always had grass that grew at the river banks.” Male agro-pastoralist, Oromia, southern Ethiopia Female pastoralist, Isiolo, central KenyaSIGN UP FOR OUR MONTHLY E-NEWSLETTER: BBCWORLDSERVICETRUST.ORG 9
  10. 10. LEAST RESPONSIBLE, MOST AFFECTED, LEAST INFORMED: PUBLIC UNDERSTANDING OF CLIMATE CHANGE IN AFRICA The will of God? providing insight into what is likely to happen to their While the principal perception is that changes to the societies and environmental life support systems is carried weather were caused by local factors and local behav- out by research centres outside of Africa. Nearly all the iours, another dominant response is that measures proposed to address international climate change“ You cannot see God – or gods, fate or other such factors – are responsible for such changes. Whenthe impact of climate changes in the climate are attributed to external factors, these tend to be focused are devised and debated at international fora which – at least until very recently – have barely been reported in Africa, and are conducted in language unlikely to resonate with the vast majority of people on the continent.change in isolation on issues of God, faith and fate. Another There are greater numbers of urgent life-threatening crises theme is that mankind has damaged thefrom the political nature given to them by God. claiming the attention of African citizens and politicians alike than anywhere else in the world, and weaker capacitiessystems that are Such perceptions tend to be specific to to address all of them. Civil society in Africa is increasinglyprevailing in Africa ” some countries and localities and not strong and focused on the issue, but climate change is to others, but to the extent that these being debated more on Africa’s behalf rather than by and perceptions do exist, the finding suggests a within Africa itself. strong potential role of faith leaders in generating greater knowledge, understanding and action around climate An important repercussion of this is that a problem that change: will affect Africa more than any other continent is being framed in language and terms that are largely divorced “It looks as if God has changed his calendar.” from African reality. Male, Accra, Ghana “Climate change is an esoteric and initially confusing con- cept to many”, argues Saleemul Huq of the International “The secret is with Allah. Allah brings the rain. The one Institute for Environment and Development (IIED). who causes the drought, who sends us the drought is “Communication about it must use a community’s own Allah.” language and terms they can understand. This means not Female pastoralist, Afar, north eastern Ethiopia only translating scientific texts into local languages but also giving up on the written word altogether and using “The changes [in rainfall] is nature, human beings can’t traditional means of communication such as art and theatre, cause it. We are in the rainy season so it can rain at or modern methods such as video.”9 The research on7 anytime. If we are in November/December and it rains which this briefing is based supports such claims.Less than half (47%) of then we can say that our sins caused it. We have not The HIV/AIDS epidemic may provide some useful lessons.journalists interviewed sinned enough for God to destroy the world with rain HIV was identified, highlighted and conceptualised in earlyin a recent study of because he has promised not to destroy the earth with rain policy responses in the west in the 1980s. Its effects were400 media practitioners again but he can use fire”. most acute in Africa (and other developing countries) butacross 20 countries in Female farmer, Rivers State, south eastern NigeriaAfrica claimed to be the language and communication methods were generatedknowledgeable about by experts from outside of the continent. Much of the early The challenge of language media reporting of the issue in Africa focused on highlyclimate change. From A major purpose of the research on which this briefing is scientific language which provided little insight into theresearch conducted bythe BBC World Service based was to explore what information African citizens already apparent reality of the disease on the continent.Trust’s Research and need if they are to respond to and adapt to climate For many years, much of the early debates around HIV/Learning Group on change. The results suggest that a central challenge in AIDS were conducted in terms that were technical inbehalf of the such responses will revolve around language, something nature and often untranslatable into terms or languagesInternational Food that is reaffirmed by African journalists7. that were capable of resonating with those most affected.Policy ResearchInstitute (IFPRI) “We don’t have a term to describe climate change in our Mass education campaigns were carried out (and stillsummer 2009 language”, says Claudie Tsheya Iikela, General Manager are) and the best ones provided life-saving information of TV Programmes at the Namibian Broadcasting to millions. However, the real sea change in Africa’s8 Corporation8. “We have many words for particular response to HIV/AIDS came when those most affectedSpeaking at UNESCO weather conditions – such as wind – but it takes us at by the virus exposed the true reality of the impact – socialInternational least four times as long to describe an issue of climate and economic as well as medical – on their lives, andConference on as it would in English … it means it can be quite boring demanded access to treatment and resources. It was theBroadcast Media and for the listener”. increasingly vocal, sophisticated and organised responseClimate Change: from African civil society that transformed internationalA Public Service Remit, The research reflects this. The term ‘climate’ is not public and policy responses to the pandemic. AfricanParis (4-5 September generally recognised across the range of countries and citizens became the agents of change, not the subjects.2009) people involved in the research. The term ‘climate The same may well prove true of climate change: change’ is little known and people frequently interpret9 it to mean changes in the weather. The term ‘global “The media talks about development; it doesn’t give usInternational Institute warming’ is more widely recognised, either because it much information on the environment.”for Environment and Male ago-pastoralist, Oromia, southern Ethiopia has been taught in schools or, more commonly, becauseDevelopment (IIED)briefing Community people have heard about it from the media (television,Based Adaptation, radio, magazine and mobile telephones are all men- “The media should bring us programmes of places thatSaleemul Huq tioned). However ‘global warming’ is often inaccurately have been in similar situations, and show the way theywww.iied.org/ conflated with phenomena such as the ozone layer or handled the issues.”climate-change/key- tectonic movements and earthquakes or other largely Female farmer, Ahero, western Kenyaissues/community- unrelated issues.based-adaptation/community-based- African governments and citizens are currently in a position “On TV and Radio, I have heard about temperature increasingadaptation-iied- where they are largely reactive, rather than proactive in in some countries and decreasing in others.”briefing their responses to climate change. Nearly all the science Female, Afar, north eastern Ethiopia10 BBC WORLD SERVICE TRUST POLICY BRIEFING #3 OCTOBER 2009
  11. 11. Copenhagen: A closing window the public will become both better informed and more demanding about its causes.of opportunity The international community has a window of opportunityThis research provides us with some insights into the to demonstrate to African citizens that it is serious aboutinformation and communication needs, realities and slowing and ultimately stopping climate change. If it graspsaspirations of African citizens confronting yet another that opportunity – most importantly at the UN summitmassive shock to a continent already reeling from multiple in December 2009 – the inevitable public attribution ofconcurrent crises. blame for climate change may at least be channelled into constructive responses.An obvious conclusion is that there is a need for greatereducation about climate change in Africa if its citizens If that window closes and if the international communityare to adapt to it. As a British organisation operating fails to take serious action on climate change, the long-from the home of the industrial revolution, however, term public response in Africa could be unpredictable.we offer a more fundamental conclusion. Without Clearly however, the likelihood is that a set of problemsbetter public understanding in Africa of the causes and which African citizens currently consider to be largelyconsequences of climate change, those most affected by their responsibility to address will be transformed intothe impacts of climate change cannot hold those who a realisation that little local action is likely to succeedcaused it to their commitments and responsibilities in without global action. Without such global action, peopleconfronting it. may decide that taking any action at all is pointless, and blame and recrimination may increasingly dominate publicThe extent to which current shifts in the weather or responses.experience of environmental degradation – to whichmost people were responding – can be attributed to There is another window of opportunity that may also beclimate change is a matter of scientific and political suggested by this research. The intense environmentaldebate and clearly depends on local context. There is awareness affirmed by the research suggests there isalmost no serious scientific doubt that now, and in the a reservoir of public demand for more serious effortsfuture, international carbon and other greenhouse gas to tackle the environmental crises and problems facingpollution will increasingly drive climatic changes, further Africa.cause environmental degradation and undermine human The issue could become a catalyst for far more concerteddevelopment on the African continent. governmental and public action on the environment. AThe research carried out over recent months by the reinvigoration of efforts to reverse environmental degrada-BBC World Service Trust Research and Learning Group tion in Africa seems possible if credible steps are takenreveals little attribution of blame by African publics for internationally to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, andtheir growing climate-related problems on the industr- if industrialised countries commit credible resources toialised world. There is a strong sense that environmental enable countries most affected to adapt to climate change.degradation is a localised issue for which responsibil- This only seems feasible, however, against a backdrop ofity lies with Africans themselves – as governments, clear international commitments to stem global climateindividuals and communities – to redress. Even where emissions.environmental problems are climatically related, this is Meaningful action on climate change will require unprec-frequently attributed to highly visible, localised factors edented international cooperation and political will. It willsuch as deforestation. require profound behavioural, economic and social changeThere is an obvious irony here. Those international across nearly all sections of society in nearly all societies. Thebehaviours which may have the most profoundly damaging demands on financial and human resources will be acute.effects on Africa in the future are those which Africans This briefing suggests that the information and communica-are least aware of. tion needs of those most affected by climate change should be a more prominent priority in the international responseThis will almost certainly change in the future. As to climate change. Unless they are met, African citizensclimate-related problems become more marked, and as cannot adapt to climate change. Nor can they educategovernment, civil society and media attention increases, those who have the greatest responsibility for slowing it.“Those international behaviourson Africa in havefuturemost profoundly damaging effects which may the theare those which Africans are least aware of ”SIGN UP FOR OUR MONTHLY E-NEWSLETTER: BBCWORLDSERVICETRUST.ORG 11
  12. 12. LEAST RESPONSIBLE, MOST AFFECTED, LEAST INFORMED: PUBLIC UNDERSTANDING OF CLIMATE CHANGE IN AFRICAAcknowledgmentsThis briefing is based on research carried out by the BBC World Service Trust This policy briefing is one of a series published by the BBC World ServiceResearch and Learning Group in partnership with the British Council. Trust’s Policy and Research Programme with funding from the UKResearchers were Apune Jacob Alfred, Selam Ayalew, Miriam Burton, Department for International Development (DFID). None of the viewsAnna Godfrey (Research Manager), Mercy Kimaro, Perest Kujang, Emily reflected here should be taken as reflecting those of any fundingLeRoux-Rutledge, Leah Matthews, Tunga Mbia, Patrick McCurdy, Anu organisation. The BBC World Service Trust is an independent charityMohammed, David Musiime, Lucy Neville, Allan Oniba Alana, Sam Otieno, established by the BBC, but no views expressed here should be taken toEd Pauker, Ruman Ronald Moi, and Kayshinee Rye Ramchurn. Substantial reflect those of the BBCinput into this briefing was provided by Miriam Burton, Grace Davies, AnnaGodfrey, Emily LeRoux-Rutledge and Ed Pauker. Invaluable comments on Africa Talks Climate is a groundbreaking, African-led research and communicationthe text were provided by Kit Vaughan, Caroline Nursey and Gerry Power. initiative exploring the public understanding of climate change in Africa. FurtherThe briefing was written by James Deane, head of policy at the BBC World information, and all Africa Talks Climate publications including an ExecutiveService Trust who is responsible for any errors. Summary are available from www.africatalksclimate.comThe BBC World Service Trust is the BBC’s international development charity. It aims to reduce poverty and promote human rights in developing countriesthrough the innovative and creative use of the media. Access to information, empowerment and ‘voice’ are at the heart of all we do.The BBC World Service Trust is an independent charity funded by external grants and voluntary contributions, mainly from the UK’s Department forInternational Development (DFID), the European Union, UN agencies and charitable foundations. Registered charity number: 1076235©BBC World Service TrustBBC World Service Trust, Bush House, Strand, London WC2B 4PH, UKTel +44 (0) 20 7557 2462Fax +44 (0) 20 7397 1622Email ws.trust@bbc.co.ukWeb bbcworldservicetrust.org Printed on paper from recycled and sustainable sources12 SIGN UP FOR OUR MONTHLY E-NEWSLETTER: BBCWORLDSERVICETRUST.ORG