Climate change and the Enviornment


Climate change is going to be the greatest challenge this generation faces. This is even more true when we consider the developing world. The developed world, the one to blame for the vast majority of anthropogenic climate change, has enough money to cope with the changes that we will face in the coming years in dealing with climate change. It is therefore the developing countries, those who have done the least amount of damage to the environment, that will be forced with the burden of coping with climate change. Zimbabwe signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1992, and it entered into force in 1994. This showed a commitment that will still be required if  Zimbabwe has any chance of coping with climate change in the future.


Zimbabwe faces many challenges in regards to climate change. The first and most obvious is that of water. With climate change many experts believe that diminishing water supplies are an inevitability. This will have serious consequences for the people of Zimbabwe, they are already extremely reliant on good rains every year in order to grow enough crops to feed themselves. Clean water is another issue. As we have seen in the past (but hopefully not in the future) Zimbabwe has suffered terribly with clean water issues, the most noticeable case of this being the cholera outbreak in 2008. If there is less access to clean water in the future, the health of the Zimbabwean people will suffer. 

Other challenges are also related to agriculture. Cattle have a significant cultural role to play in Zimbabwean society. In recent years, due to the political and economic crisis in the country, much of the national herd has been diminished. However, since a form of stability has resumed since 2009, the national herd is being rebuilt. This is a positive for the culture and protein intake of the people of Zimbabwe, but it can have serious environmental effects. It could mean an increase in soil erosion, and an increase in methane emissions, both of which have serious environmental consequences. 

Yet another environmental issue that Zimbabwe faces is the dilemma it is faced between exploiting its natural resources and preserving its environment. Zimbabwe has potential to expand its mineral extraction, especially in the case of coal, chromium, and diamonds. Although these minerals are extremely sought after, and have potential to greatly assist in the development in the country, it is a tough decision to decide which is more important- the economic development or the environment?


Things are not all bleak regarding climate change in Zimbabwe. In 2009, the Government launched their "Our Climate, Our Future" campaign. This programme was launched in cooperation with the British Council and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).[1] This programme sought to bring awareness to the country about climate change issues, and aimed to bring about a significant change in the way Zimbabweans lead their lives, especially in relation to agricultural practices. It also noted the close links that lie between the environment and people's health.[2] 


Climate change will be the generation-defining challenge. The way we chose to tackle it will be how we are judged by our children and grandchildren. While those in the developed world can afford to delay the hardest decisions, no such luxury exists in the developing world. This is a challenge that will make each day that one bit harder to live through. Even difficult tasks, such as sourcing clean water, or growing enough food to feed one's family, will now become significantly more difficult. Although some positives and progress can be seen in the policies adopted in Zimbabwe, all policy from now on needs to consider the environmental consequences of its desired effect. 

[1] Zimbabwe Climate Change Programme Launched
[2] Ibid.
Original Challenge Question

Two interventions that I have suggested in previous that are likely to have a negative impact on biodiversity are the increased use of coal in electricity production and the increased investment in rebuilding of a national (cattle) herd for agriculture profit.


Coal extraction is not only unappealing to the eyes, its extraction and use are seriously harmful to the environment. The extraction itself requires a mine, which endangers habitats of a variety of flora and fauna. Using coal to generate electricity threatens ecosystem services in that it may detract from other’s provisioning, supporting and cultural services. Acid rain, increased carbon dioxide and other harmful greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and the visual harm that comes from coal mines and plants all lead to a decrease in human well-being. To counteract the effects of coal extraction and burning, one could use alternate sources of energy to provide electricity, or ensure that coal extraction and use is limited, and when used, done so following accepted regulations.


Rebuilding and increasing the national herd will have a negative impact on biodiversity and the environment. An increased number of animals grazing on a fixed amount of lands will, if not done appropriately, lead to over-grazing and desertification. It can also lead to an increase in manure used for other agricultural purposes. These three factors combined can lead to a threat to other’s provisioning and regulating services. If cattle over-graze a plot of land, it will not be fit for any other use. Serious over-grazing and improper herd management can lead to desertification, which has serious consequences for farmers in that vicinity. Increased manure supply can lead to an increase in run-off entering rivers and lakes, and threatening the quality of water used for domestic and industrial purposes. To counteract these effects, I recommend that a constraint of head of cattle per acre be established and that a moratorium be placed on herd expansion in ecologically sensitive areas.

Original Challenge Question:

Statement on Climate Change, November 7th, 2010: 

The people of Zimbabwe must be made aware of the situation regarding climate change. It is not something that has been made up. It is real, and it will affect you and your families for generations to come unless drastic action is taken now.

Zimbabwe contributes to climate change through a number of practices. The burning of coal for the generation of electricity and the collecting and burning of biomass fuel for domestic heating, cooking and lighting purposes are a real and pressing danger to the environment. Our national industry has increased carbon dioxide emissions of nearly 40 percent over the 15 years leading up to 2005. A coherent energy policy, combined with an electrification programme, needs to be enacted in order to cut Zimbabwe’s contribution to climate change. This policy will call for the use of cleaner fuels.[1]

Our national flora and fauna are under threat from dangerous policies. Water will become scarcer with an expected 20% reduction in precipitation.[2] Maize, the crop the vast majority of our population relies on, could see a 50% reduction in productivity.[3] Deforestation and desertification continues on our most vulnerable and marginalized lands. As Africa is particularly at risk due to low adaptive capacities, the Southern African Development Community needs to organize a Food and Water Security Conference in order to boost cooperation on the challenges facing our region regarding these issues, as well as the promotion of improved domestic agricultural and water policies.

In order to most benefit from any outcomes of climate change, regional cooperation through the SADC or African Union must be emphasized in order to facilitate cross-border agreements on food and water security, water harvesting and appropriate farming methods so as to reduce international tensions and encourage cooperation on this, the most difficult challenge facing Zimbabwe and the world