Sunday, December 27, 2009

Climate change: Zambia’s doomsday scenario

Jack Zimba in the Sunday Post (Zambia) imagines one possible future for Zambia: It’s August 2070 and Zambia is just reeling from the most devastating drought ever; this, after two successive droughts that have already brought untold suffering on the country’s 48 million inhabitants.

The drought has had such devastating effects as never seen before, with total crop failure. Several hundred thousand head of cattle and other livestock also die of starvation and thirst. Water levels in the rivers drop drastically - so much so that they resemble streams of murky water. Fish stocks are reduced to almost zero.

The Savannah has never been this dry and hot, with temperatures soaring to 44 degrees Celsius. Unaccustomed to such dry and blistering conditions, the hippopotamus goes the way of the Dodo. The Victoria Falls, which has attracted millions of tourists with its thundering waters, is reduced to a bare rock with a measly trickle of water. Tourist numbers plummet, so does the country's revenue. By mid-October, the situation reaches an apocalyptic magnitude, with heat waves in some low-lying areas like Siavonga claiming scores of souls.

Panic spreads across the nation as the country is plunged into darkness for hours every day, as power generation falls, owing to insufficient water to drive the huge turbines at Kariba. In the cities and major towns, there are chaotic scenes as thousands of people queue up for scarce mealie-meal and bread. These, however, break into widespread rioting, causing political instability.

…By 2070, most of us living today will have crossed to the other side, escaping the consequences of our actions today. Consequences that scientists now warn have already begun manifesting in various parts of the globe with increasing ferocity. But living in a region where there are no melting glaciers and rising sea levels to indicate a warming Earth may still deceive some to think that Zambia is not affected.

Oversease Mwangase has been working as a meteorologist for for 31 years and is now deputy director of the Meteorological Department. "What I can say confidently is that there is evidence of climate change in Zambia," he says….

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