Climate change is a global phenomenon affecting the entire planet. The period between 2000 and 2010 was the warmest decade ever recorded, and global greenhouse gas emissions are continuing to rise. In order to mitigate against the effects of rising global temperatures, alternate sources of energy need to be developed and adopted.
In Africa, infrastructure development for solar energy and renewable energy has slowly become a priority for many countries. Kenya for example, recently launched a large power project that includes the setting up of 200,000 solar panels to produce 320 megawatts of power.
But the heavy lifting is not being done by large organisations and governments alone. With almost half of the African population relying on agriculture for their livelihood, climate change is of concern to millions of young people who form a large part of Africa’s population.
The United Nations, moreover, reports that young people who live in rural areas and depend on stable weather conditions for food and money are more likely to feel the impact of climate change.
Here are four ways climate change is impacting the youth:
- Extreme weather conditions such as floods and drought directly lead to loss of homes and/or income for young people and their families
- Extreme weather conditions are also shown to have had a negative impact on participation in education, with young women being the most vulnerable
- Food shortages and low agricultural yield may lead to malnutrition in young adults
- Many young people will migrate to cities and look for work in informal sectors in order to support their families, which leads to the rapid growth of urban slums and poor living conditions
It may not seem like a regular issue for the majority, but many have seen and learnt about the adverse effects on society and are making an effort to tackle this problem.
In August this year, Tanzania hosted the first Africa youth conference on energy and climate change. The initiative was coordinated by Jacob Mogendi, an activist and member of the Young Lawyers organisation in Dar Es Salaam. Gambian social justice activist Ibrahim Ceesay is the current executive coordinator of the African Youth Initiative on Climate Change (AYICC) which consists of 38 African chapters. The initiative was represented at the Fourth Climate Change and Development in Africa Conference in Morocco last year, which was in part organised by the United Nations Economic commission of Africa (UNECA).
In Kenya, Benedict Muyale is encouraging developing cities to go green through his ‘Green Sun Cities’ initiative, which brings together an array of professionals from different sectors such as IT and urban planning to generate awareness about climate change. Mr Muyale has also joined the global movement #fastfortheclimate, which is calling on world leaders to act on climate change.
The youth’s leadership and role is an integral part of Africa’s development and can help African nations move towards reversing the effects of climate change, amongst other challenges that the continent faces. With approximately 65% of Africa’s population under the age of 35, policy and debate ought to be more inclusive-after all it is the youth that will be most affected by the decisions that are made today.