NORFOLK, Virginia– With what has become a consensus throughout the academic and scientific community, adapting to climate changes has already established itself as a prominent global issue. International leaders regularly address the issues concerning environmental impacts of carbon emissions to address cutting back in order to establish a clean and renewable future.
Unfortunately, although the goal for carbon parts per million within the atmosphere was set at 350 ppm (which is considered to be stable), we have far exceeded this amount. According to the Mauna Loa Observatory, the current atmospheric carbon content sits at 396.81 ppm.
Because of the rapid increase in atmospheric carbon concentration, some of the effects of climate change are now irreversible in a sense. Therefore, it’s not enough to simply cut back on carbon- we now have to begin to adapt to some of the consequences such as rising seas and the growing desertification of grasslands.
Moreover, this is an issue that pertains to all nations, whether developed or developing.
In what seems to be quite a stroke of irony, nations that have done the least to contribute to the growing environmental concern of climate change are poised to receive the greatest repercussions from it. An instance of this is represented by how rapidly grasslands of Africa are beginning to undergo the process of desertification.
This provides significant concern for the people of developing countries within Africa because desertification can have a monumental impact on agriculture and food production– especially within a continent that is already plagued by hunger and malnourishment.
Another climate-related issue for coastal Africans in particular is in the rising of sea levels. Within coastal communities of Tanzania, such as the town of Pangani, people are facing a rapid loss of freshwater, which is already a significant concern for the developing nations of Africa. Because salt water from seas are beginning to rise, it becomes possible for the seawater to permeate the water tables of coastal communities.
Consequently, it is very difficult for these communities to adapt to some of the challenges they face because of their low level of development and infrastructure.
Meanwhile, in essentially the opposite spectrum of the world, coastal communities of the U.S. face similar issues. The Hampton Roads region of Virginia, for example, is very low-lying and densely populated. Accordingly, rising sea levels have already begun to impact the region. The Norfolk Naval Base, also known as the largest naval base in the world, has already started adapting to rising sea levels.
There has also been an occurrence of more frequent and intensive flooding within the area, which is a commonly noted topic of conversation among the coastal inhabitants of Norfolk, Virginia.
Although both instances of climate change adaption have striking similarities, there are also notable differences between the two. The challenge that coastal Virginia faces in addressing rising sea levels are primarily rooted in spreading awareness and influencing the political process to begin adaptation. This is a challenge that Virginians have the ability to overcome because of their resources for civic engagement, democratic political structure and economic resources.
On the other hand, developing African nations face an immensely different story. The challenges they face are much more difficult to overcome for a variety of reasons. For example, the political structures of developing African nations are not ideal for responsive adaption.
This is the result of a combination of factors such as economic or political limitations of government, but it also opens up an area of concern for humanitarian aid. Because developing nations such as Tanzania are unable to adapt to climate changes, the landscape of international development requires humanitarian aid agencies to consider environmental concerns of developing nations.
– Jugal Patel
Sources: WWF, CO2 Now, USA Today, Newstime Africa
Photo: GB Times