Is climate change real? Where is the evidence?

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By EDWIN NUWAGABA (email the author)

Posted Wednesday, June 9 2010 at 00:00
A disastrous disease known as banana wilt has hit the district of Mbarara so badly that farmers there are contemplating migrating. In Hoima district, army worms have attacked gardens and defoliated sweet potatoes on a large scale.

Just recently, the icecap on Rwenzori Mountain started melting, and water is now gushing down – making the lives of many of the villagers miserable. With landslides dominating newspaper headlines, climate change is no longer a threat far away in the future, but a clear and observable fact.

In the past for instance, experts note that we used to have two cut out rainfall seasons which were well known. Areas below the 2° North latitude were experiencing two rainfall seasons, the first being March to May, and the second being August to October. Meanwhile areas above the 2° North latitude had one prolonged season of rainfall from April to October. These seasons have however changed radically and these are having an effect on crops.

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Fighting over resources
It is also predicted that peace and security will be at stake because of these changes. “People are going to fight for natural resources, and you cannot stop immigration,” says Isabirye. There will be a situation whereby people are concentrating on their natural resources, and other people will want to share it with them, and that is how fights will ensue.

“The evidence of this is the fights of the people in Teso and Karamoja. They are fighting over natural resources,” Paul Isabirye, a programme officer at the department of Meteology comments. Semliki River which was taken as a natural boundary between Uganda and Congo has started silting and the real course of the lake according to Isabirye has started changing. So, the person at the silted side of the boundary will be at a great advantage.

Change in vegetation
Vegetation is yet another area where climate change is going to do a lot of damage. “As the climate changes, we are not certain of which kind of vegetation we shall have. Some of the vegetation we have is going to disappear, and we shall start seeing shrubs coming up,” Isabirye says. The problem with the species which are yet to come is that, some might eat up the vegetation we already have.

The other way to see just how much, climate change has affected us, Isabirye points out, is to look at the boreholes, most of which have run short of the ability to pump water. Boreholes get their water from underground aquifers (water tablets). But now the prevailing situation is that all the water runs to the water bodies- and the aquifers are left empty. It is only when the water bodies are somewhat full that we get water in the water tables and that is only when water can be available in the boreholes.

Health problems
More so, the effects of climate change will slowly catch up with our own health system, as Isabirye explains that any biological system is sensitive to its environment. “For instance when temperatures increase you will even start feeling pain in your ears. People will get dehydrated.

Asthmatic people will even have more health problems because of the extremities in the weather.” As Isabirye points out, more than just the weather is at stake. It ought to be understood, that the effects of climate change will impact on our nutrition, economy, recreation and many other areas.

Drop in water sources
We have also started seeing climate change affect our water bodies. According to a climate expert who has been following the trends of our water bodies at the Directorate of Water, who prefers anonymity said, the worst effects we have seen on water bodies are due to the floods which have previously occurred in Lake Bisinia (Kumi District) (2007) and rivers like Manafwa (2007, 2010), Malaba (2007), Namtala (flush floods- 2007, 2009), Asea (2007, 2009), Awoja (2007) and Akokorio (2007). The bridges on these rivers feeding into L. Kyoga were submerged.

And because of climate change Lake Wamala has shrunk significantly. Some seasonal rivers have dried completely like River Wamboli in Luwero/Nakasongola. But because climate is very unpredictable, the climate expert cannot estimate how much impact there will be on our water bodies.

Even when water levels drastically drop, they later rise, but usually not as significantly as the previous drop. And whereas water quality is already an issue, climate change makes it worse during the droughts like in Murchison bay where water has turned dark green. This happens because evaporation increases and leaves the available water of less quantity and much worse quality.

Climate change is a reality, the effects of it are gradual and there are high chances that we are yet to face the worst. It is time for the government as well as individuals to start thinking very fast; how climate change is going to affect us, our community, property and economic prospects and embark on adaptation measures.