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Opinions of Saturday, 18 September 2010

Columnist: Acheampong, Elvis Akwasi

Global Warming and Climate Change: Creating the Grassroots Awareness

Even though Ghana is one of the countries that has appended her signature to the Copenhagen accord, very little has been done to create the required grassroots awareness about the global warming. And even where the awareness has been created less has been done to achieve specific targets in it. The onus therefore lies not only on government, but also on NGOs, religious organizations and educational institutions to educate Ghanaians, majority of who live at the country side about global warming, their contribution to the problem and the need to help curb this life threatening phenomenon.
Global warming is basically a measurable measure of an increase in the average temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere, oceans, rivers and landmasses. Environmental experts believe that the Earth is currently facing a period of rapid warming brought up by rising levels of heat -trapping gases called, green house gases, in the atmosphere.
What actually causes of global warming and climate change?
Several gases in the atmosphere are transparent to ultraviolet and visible light but absorb infrared radiation. These gases allow sunlight to penetrate the atmosphere and be absorbed by the earth’s surface. This sunlight energy is radiated as infrared radiation (commonly known as heat), which is absorbed by the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Because the effect is similar to what happens in a green house (the glass allows light to enter but retards the loss of heat), these gases are called greenhouse gases and the warming thought to occur from their increase is called the green house effect. The most common greenhouse gases that form part of daily activities of majority of Ghanaians are carbon dioxide and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).
Carbon dioxide is the most abundant greenhouse gas. It occurs as a natural consequence of respiration. However, much larger quantities are put into the atmosphere as a waste product of energy production. Coal, oil, natural gas and biomass are all burned to provide heat and electricity for industrial processes, home heating, and cooking. A very common practice in majority of homes in Ghana which happens to be in the villages and small towns is the burning of wood ( charcoal ) as a fuel for cooking and other purposes. This is a cause of worry and a danger to our environment and there is therefore the need to re-think as a nation and introduce environmentally friendly options.
Trees and other vegetations remove carbon dioxide from the air and use if for photosynthesis and therefore serve as a natural check on global warming. It is therefore imperative to discourage indiscriminate cutting of trees to convert forestland to other uses like mining, farming and construction. There is the need to encourage tree planting exercise by government organization, NGOs and individuals since the practice will go a long way to reduce the amount carbon dioxide in our atmosphere.
One government ministry that can be more effective in leading ‘Greening Ghana Revolution’ is the district assemblies and metropolitan authorities. What the assemblies can do is that any house that plants a minimum of five trees in its compound would have its annual property rate reduced by say 30%. On the other hand, if a house fails to plant tree in its compound, it would pay more for its annual property rate.
Ghana has become a dumping site for second-refrigerators and air conditioners most of which operate on chlorofluorocarbons which are very efficient green house gas, even very efficient at retarding heat loss than is carbon dioxide. The move by Ghana Energy Commission and government of Ghana to ban the importation and use of second–hand refrigerators which do not conform to environmental safety and energy standards is laudable, but there is the need to educate Ghanaians about the harmful effect of the use of these gadgets on the environment so that there will be a collective effort by all to help save the environment. It is therefore pertinent to advocate for the enactment of a law that will ban the importation of all chlorofluorocarbon containing products into Ghana.
The impact of global warming and climate change on the ordinary Ghanaian.
Ghana like many other countries has not escaped from the negative influences of global warming and climate change. The severe erosions along our beaches – from Keta to Ekuase in Sekondi give an eloquent testimony that global warming is more real than we perceive. Keta, once a vibrant commercial town has now been reduced to defense walls to secure the un-submerged pockets of land. The frequent low levels of water in the Akosombo Lake and its accompanying power shortage which has cost the nation millions of dollars is one of the direct detrimental effects of global warming and climate change. The desertification in Northern Ghana, the widening of the Sahara desert and the deforestation are all areas where climate change plays a vicious role in the lives of ordinary Ghanaians.
The most direct effect of climate change is the impacts of hotter temperatures. Extremely hot temperatures increases the number of people who die (of various causes) on a given day and Ghanaians are no exception. For example people with heart problems are vulnerable because the cardiovascular system must work harder to keep the body cool during hot weather. Heat exhaustion and some respiratory problems may also increase.
The way forward: Shared responsibilities.
I think one thing that we can talk about is government imposing punitive taxes on any item that pollutes the environment. This could means that those who use 4x4 cars should pay more for road worthy certificate, road tolls and car insurance. Additionally, vehicles whose emission levels goes above the accepted threshold should be banned from operation. As an incentive to allow people to buy brand new cars locally, government should wave some portion taxes on brand cars. This in the long run would prevent spare the roads of clunkers. Environmental problems are caused by humans of all walks of life and their numerous activities. It is therefore crucial to make every Ghanaian, young or old, rich or poor, lettered or unlettered, aware of his or her contribution towards pollution of the environment. In that way people will start taking responsibilities for climate change and the need to help mitigate the global menace. There is therefore the need for effective collaboration among metropolitan, municipal and district assemblies, traditional authorities, religious bodies and all other stake holders to help address root causes of climate change and global warming.

By Elvis Akwasi Acheampong, President of Green Ghana Foundation.
E-mail: Elvisacheampong91@yahoo.com