Break Free from Fossil Fuels!

Follow the story with Chiromo Environmetal Awareness Club…

Desertification has now spread into northern Kenya, rainfall shortages in the past year caused famine across various regions of the country, not to mention the past El-Nino effects and the recent heat waves that were experienced by all. And now the ongoing torrential rainfall is set to damage the crops of many farmers. All a result of climate change.

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Women and girls, caught in a small sandstorm, fetch water in Wajir, Kenya.

[Photo Credit: www.theatlantic.com ]

 Science clearly shows that there is a strong correlation between the emission of greenhouse gases through the burning of fossil fuels and the average rise in global temperature. These emissions of greenhouse gases largely are, if not entirely, the result of human activity.

Many may say – especially in Africa – that climate change is the enemy from above. We get seasonal rains that water our crops from the clouds in the sky and when the rains fail as they have been over the past couple years, we instinctively look up. Agriculture is an important aspect of the livelihoods of the Kenyan people and the African continent. 70% of Africans are farmers, 1/3rd of the continents income is generated through agriculture; 95% of which are rain-fed crops, so when there are no rain, as a result of the impacts of climate change, we have no choice but to look up. But I would like to suggest something different, especially to the people of my home country; the enemy in truth does not stand above but rather, lies beneath.

Fossil fuels as we all know are the non-renewable energy resources which include oil, coal and natural gas. This energy or carbon store was formed when prehistoric plants and animals died and were gradually buried by layers of rock; over millions of years. In the past 100years, the burning of fossil fuels has caused the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere to increase drastically. Currently, 30 billion tons of Carbon Dioxide is released into the atmosphere every year. The amount of Carbon emitted and the rate at which it is being released, needless to say, is alarming. But despite how complicated climate science and global climate negotiations may seem to the average reader, the ultimate solution to the climate problem really is very simple; Break Free From Fossil Fuels!

Crude oil was first discovered in the northern part of Kenya in the year 2012.  Today our newspaper headlines constantly read in bold: ‘Kenya may begin exporting one billion barrels of oil by September’, ‘Kenya set to join Leagues of Oil Exporters’, and only one month ago, it was estimated that Kenya’s oil deposits can run her for the next 300 years! Indeed, these prospects sound breathe taking but sadly, they literally are breathe taking in reality.

 

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Men working at an oil rig after oil was discovered in northern Kenya.

[Photo Credit: www.oilnewskenya.com and www.theeastafrican.co.ke ]

If we, as a nation, exploit our fossil fuel resources, we will, in turn, add to the effects of climate change even in our own country. Our carbon emissions will soon translate to even warmer temperatures and less rainfall and agricultural produce. It is not logical to drown the cries of millions of farmers who live off their next harvest, in crude oil. We may look at the history of the industrial revolution and conclude that the only route to economic development and advancement is through the exploitation of our fossil fuels but this is far from the truth. Renewable sources of energy; solar, wind, geothermal and hydroelectric power provide an alternate route to economic development that is far less dangerous. It may seem hard to believe that renewable energy can match the benefits that non-renewable energy offers, but before you resort to any preconceived opinions that you may have, I ask that you consider the following facts and statistics.

Wind power, which is the fastest-growing energy source in the world since 1990, has already taken root in Kenya.

Kenya was the first African country to tap geothermal energy from which she earns a net profit of KSH 11.5billion per annum from only one power plant.

Africa harbours the largest hydroelectric power plant in Egypt’s Aswan Dam, and yet the World Bank estimates that only 7 to 8% of Africa’s hydroelectric power potential is currently utilised.

Solar energy is the most abundant energy resource in the world, but the beauty with Kenya is; unlike many other countries that experience different seasons, the sun rises and sets 365 days a year and an extra day on a leap year, which simply means that we are a country that has a constant guarantee of solar energy and yet this resource remains untapped.

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Potential of renewable energy in Kenya.

[Photo Credit: www.venturesafrica.com ]

Despite all these shocking statistics, 80% of Africa’s electricity is still generated from fossil fuels but many have concluded that; with the right infrastructure, 50% of electricity generated in Southern and Eastern Africa can be obtained from renewable sources of energy by 2030. And so I ask; is the use of fossil fuels really necessary at the expenses of agriculture? Today, men and women in Kenya sruggle to put food on their table for their families not because of their slackness, but because climate change has brought about major changes in our rainfall patterns. Food crops are failing.

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A smallholder farmer working a maize field in the district of Embu, Kenya.

[Photo Credit: www.dw.com ]

A wise man once said; when the rivers are all dried up and the trees cut down, man will then realise that he cannot eat money.

Africa’s land is the epicentre of natural resources that offer tremendous energy potential, majority of which surprisingly remain untapped. I believe that this situation still can be redirected. If we focus on explioting and financing the use of renewable energy as opposed to mining for oil in the northern part of Kenya which is already facing desertification, then we have the solution to our problems.

Aside from this, many have rightfully argued that the historic responsibility of carbon emission lies with the Western countries and that they should take responsibility through Climate Finance and be the only nations to reduce their levels of green-house gas emissions. Now although more developed nations are chiefly responsible for the changes in climate we face today, the impacts will be felt by all. Drought, famine, floods, decreased rainfall, extreme weather conditions, spread of disease, loss of animal and plant species, melting of polar ice caps, rise in sea level, increase in average global temperature, you name it, climate change remains a global phenomenon with a global impact, so a global response will only suffice to address this global issue.

It has often been repeated that our generation is the first one to experience the impacts of climate change, but what we largely do not seem to realise is that our generation is also the last one that can do something about it, if only we would break free from fossil fuels.