The continent of Africa is facing a future in which climate change will kill more people than traditional causes such as malaria and HIV, according to a Ugandan environmental expert, but there are practical things churches can do to help stem the tide.
Ekklesia reports that Dr Rose Mwebaza warned Anglican bishops from Africa, meeting in Entebbe, that lakes across the continent are shrinking and drying up, crops are failing, deforestation is leading to terrible flooding and, as a result, people are fighting and killing each other over resources.
“Africa is facing several [environmental] challenges,” said Dr Mwebaza, a senior legal advisor on environmental security at Nairobi’s Institute of Security Studies. These include increased droughts and reduced availability of water; desertification - one factor in major flooding - and increased incidents of diseases in previously unaffected areas.
“Lake Chad in 1973 covered several countries,” she said. “It is reduced to a shadow of its former self. It is vanishing from the continent right in front of our eyes.”
The same was true of Mount Kilimanjaro, she said. Once covered with plenty of snow, experts predict that, within 2 to 5 years’ time, there will be none left on that mountain. “These are the things that are happening right in front of our eyes.”
“I think climate change is going to cause more deaths than many of the other traditional causes such as malaria and aids,” she said. “Whenever I say that, people look at me surprised, but it’s true.”
“The Rift Valley used to be a bread basket, a fertile area… it’s now a wasteland. A lot of the rivers are completely dry. What this is leading to is that it has become a security problem. People are literally killing each other over resources.”
“[Governments] are facing the problem of malaria and several other diseases that didn’t exist before or existed only in a few locations…that is adding to the health challenges of those countries.
Things that churches can do include teaching and information-sharing. Teaching how to build simple pan dams to capture rainwater for irrigating crops, watering cattle, or showing how to purify water to provide potable water can make a significant difference.
Simple alternative energy projects can make a difference even at the local level. Dr. Mwebaza highlighted a project to convert cow dung to fuel, minimizing the need for oil-based fuels.
Planting trees, reforestation, can be led by churches and dioceses. “The church is the one of the biggest landowners on the continent," Mwebaza said. "If they reforested just a quarter of the land they have they could make a significant difference.”