Facing the reality of global warming

Female-run SMEs and youth at the heart of AfCFTA
Amos Safo is a Development and Communications Management Specialist, and a Social Justice Advocate.

By Amos SAFO

Beginning January 2024 to date, Ghana has witnessed an unprecedented heat, as a result of global warming and climate change. This extreme change of the weather is redefining people’s sleeping habits and overall health.

Several people across the country are complaining about extreme heat that makes them sweat throughout the night even under air conditioners and ceiling fans.

The situation has been exacerbated by recent erratic power supplies across the country that reminds us of the four year’s of poor electricity supply popularly called “dum sor” between 2013 and 2016. In fact, those who dismissed the reality of climate change and global warming and their negative impact on the weather, agriculture, fishing and livelihoods must begin to revise their notes.

Climate change

Climate change refers to long-term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns. These shifts may be natural, but according to scientists since the 1800s, human activities have been the main driver of climate change, primarily due to the burning of fossil fuels (like coal, oil and gas), which produce heat-trapping gases.

Besides, manufacturing and industry produce emissions, mostly from burning fossil fuels to produce energy for making things like cement, iron, steel, electronics, plastics, clothes and other goods. Moreover, mining and other industries have been recently identified as immensely contributing to carbon emissions.

Also, cutting down forests to create farms or pastures, or for other reasons, causes emissions.  Practically, when trees are cut, they release the carbon they have been storing. Since forests absorb carbon dioxide, destroying them also limits nature’s ability to keep emissions out of the atmosphere. As greenhouse gas emissions engulf the Earth, they trap the sun’s heat, thus causing global warming and climate change.  Consequently, the world is currently getting warmer than at any point in recorded history.

Greenhouse gas emissions

Global warming occurs when carbon dioxide (CO2) and other air pollutants gather in the atmosphere and absorb sunlight and solar radiation that have bounced off the earth’s surface. Normally this radiation would escape into space, but these pollutants, which can last for years in the atmosphere. It eventually traps the heat and cause the planet to get hotter. These heat-trapping pollutants—specifically carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, water vapor, and synthetic fluorinated gases—are known as greenhouse gases, and their impact is called the greenhouse effect.

Scientists note that since the Industrial Revolution, global annual temperature has increased by a little more than one degree Celsius, or about two degrees Fahrenheit. Between 1880 (the year that accurate recordkeeping began) and 1980, global temperature has risen on average by 0.07 degrees Celsius (0.13 degrees Fahrenheit) every 10 years. Since 1981, however, the rate of increase has more than doubled. According to scientists over the last 40 years, global annual temperature has risen by 0.18 degrees Celsius, or 0.32 degrees Fahrenheit, per decade. This is the major threat to the sustainability of human and animal lives.

Global action

The result is that a planet that was very cold is now warming at an alarming rate, a trend which calls for global action to stop carbon emissions and related activities. Scientist have reported that global warming reached an alarming rate in 2005, which marked the warmest period since 1880. Subsequently, global warming peaked from 2015 and has been rising steadily. Despite this overwhelming evidence, those who dismiss climate change have argued that global temperatures are rather rising. On the contrary several studies, including a 2018 paper published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, have disproved this claim. The Report revealed that the impacts of global warming were already harming people around the world.

In that regard climate scientists have concluded that duty bearers must take action to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2040 if the world is to avoid a future in which peoples’ lives will be directed by extreme droughts, wildfires, floods, tropical storms, and other disasters.  Studies have shown that the negative effects of climate change affect all people in several ways, but the underprivileged, the economically marginalized are often the worse the hit. In many poor regions of the world, like Africa climate change has become a major cause of poverty, displacement, hunger and social unrest.

Curbing dangerous climate change requires drastic reductions in emissions, as well as the use of substitutes to fossil fuels worldwide. The good news is that countries around the globe have committed to lower their emissions by setting new standards and crafting new policies to meet or even exceed those standards.  This consensus to combat climate change was reached at the 2015 Paris Climate conference.

However, signatory countries to the Paris Agreement are failing to keep to their commitments to reduce carbon emissions. Those failing to honour their commitments are industrialised countries, which are the major polluters of the earth through heavy industrial activities.  Scientists have warned that to avoid the worst impacts of climate change global carbon emissions must be reduced to 40 percent by 2030, just six months to the target. For that to happen, the global community must take immediate and feasible steps to decarbonize electricity generation by equitably transitioning from fossil fuel–based production to renewable energy sources like wind and solar, switching to electrified cars and trucks. We must also commit to maximize energy efficiency in our buildings, appliances and industries.

Development challenge

Currently there is tension between leaders of industrialised countries and leaders of poor and developing countries. The bone of contention centres around pressure by leaders of industrialised countries to poor countries to stop exploiting their natural resources for development. This is obviously to protect the forest cover, which is a key preserver of the climate.  Ironically, several western countries attained their current level of development by exploiting the natural resources of poor countries. They acted and continue to act on the basis that natural resources must be exploited for economic development without regards to the needs of future generations. So, why has the development trajectory changed?

On the contrary, leaders of the developing countries argue that it is their turn to industrialise by tapping their natural resources. The logic is that if the advanced countries used the resources of poor countries to industrialise, then poor countries have equal rights to use their natural resources to improve their economies and the livelihoods of their population. The notion is that if poor countries attain a certain level of industrialization, they would in future depend less on developed countries for loans and grants. In a way the argument by leaders of poor countries makes a lot of sense, given the fact than poor countries currently contribute a fraction of the total global carbon emissions; though their populations are worse affected by the impact of global warming and climate change.

Africa’s contribution to global warming

Statistics indicate that Africa is responsible for less than 10 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. But it is the continent which is the least able to cope with the negative impacts of climate change.

More than 110 million people on the continent were directly affected by weather, climate and water-related hazards in 2022, causing more than US$ 8.5 billion in economic damages. According to the Emergency Event Database, Africa recorded about 5000 fatalities, of which 48% were associated with drought and 43% were associated with flooding between 2022. The trend is threatening food security, ecosystems and economies, fueling displacement and migration and worsening the threat of conflict over dwindling resources, according to a new report from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

Furthermore, the State of the Climate in Africa 2022 Report shows that the rate of temperature increase in Africa has accelerated in recent decades, with weather- and climate-related hazards becoming more severe. Heatwaves, heavy rains, floods, tropical cyclones, and prolonged droughts are having devastating impacts on communities and economies, with increasing numbers of people at risk,” said WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas. “There are big gaps in weather observations in Africa and early warning services are woefully adequate. We are determined to close those gaps and ensure that life-saving early warnings reach everyone,” he added.

The report, produced jointly with the African Union Commission and Africa Climate Policy Centre of United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), was released during the Africa Climate Summit in 2022, which also saw the launch of the Early Warnings For All in Africa Action Plan.

“Africa, like other regions, has come to terms with the reality that climate change is already happening. Left untamed, the coming years would easily be characterized by severe climate-induced pressure on the continent’s economies, livelihoods and nature,” says Ambassador Josefa Leonel Correia Sacko, Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development, Blue Economy and Sustainable Environment at the African Union Commission. “People’s health, peace, prosperity, infrastructure, and other economic activities across many sectors in Africa are exposed to significant risks associated with climate change,” she was quoted in the report.

It is well documented that agriculture is the mainstay of Africa’s national economies, which supports more than 55% of the labour force. Over the years however, agricultural productivity growth has declined by 34% since 1961 due to climate change. This decline is the highest compared to what other regions of the world have experienced. Amid climate change effects the projected annual food imports by African countries is expected to increase from US$ 35 billion to US$ 110 billion by 2025, a year away.

In addition, the loss and damage costs in Africa due to climate change are projected to range between US$ 290 billion and US$ 440 billion, depending on the degree of warming, according to the UNECA’s African Climate Policy Centre.

Furthermore, climate change and the diminishing natural resource base could fuel conflicts for scarce productive land, water and pastures. Already in some countries, including Ghana farmer-herder violence has increased over the past 10 years due to growing land pressure.

As farmers are trying to sustain their lives with framing food crops Fulani herdsmen use their cattle to destroy farmlands with impunity due to the weak enforcement frameworks in Ghana.  Thus, the reality of climate change and global warming are beginning to take a toll on human health and livelihoods, our government must start evolving new policies to curb deforestation and carbon emissions. Government must also boldly enforce existing laws on environmental protection and have the political will to combat illegal (galamsey) menace, which is responsible for polluting all rivers and destroying aquatic and ecological lives. We cannot look on unconcerned while a few people destroy our rivers and ecosystems for their selfish gains.


NDRC. 2021. “Global Warming 101.”

United Nations. 2023. “Africa suffers disproportionately from climate change.”

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