Reality of climate change dawns on Ghana

For many a Ghanaian, the experience of a heavy downpour on an Independence Day is a rare occurrence. This is because early March is not often associated with heavy rainfall.

March 6, 2014 was however exceptional. The rains came down heavy in the nation’s capital, Accra and other regions of Ghana.

The otherwise colourful 57th Independence Day parade was marring by the rains. Yet it was indeed “showers of blessing” for the President to tune the minds of the citizenry to the changing weather patterns.

A celebration themed “Building a Better and Prosperous Ghana through Patriotism and National Unity” would certainly not have had a sentence on climate change in the President’s speech.

However, President John Dramani Mahama, drenched in rain, could not have delivered his address without giving space to the sudden change in weather.

Observing the reality of climate change dawning on Ghana, the President charged the Meteorological Service, to "sharpen our ability to be able to better predict the behaviour of the weather in order to be able to adapt to it."

He acknowledged “we must implement climate change adaptability so that we will be able to predict the weather.”

Extreme weather events are to become "more frequent", says Prof. David Vaughan, lead author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

He has stated the forecast, generated through climate models, relates to the likelihood of both flooding and droughts.

A new report from the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) also admits that temperatures are actually rising in response to human emissions of greenhouse gases.

According to the study, the 2C threshold of dangerous warming would be crossed later on this century.

"On the highest emission scenario, our projection is 2.9C over pre-industrial," said Nic Lewis, one of the authors, pointing out that IPCC projects a considerably higher figure.

And the impacts could be damning, especially on the vulnerable population.

By 2020, an estimated 75–250 million people in Africa would be exposed to increased water stress, a 50 per cent reduction in yields from rain-fed agriculture in some regions and agricultural production, as well as severely compromised access to food.

In Ghana, crops are getting destroyed due to periods of extreme heat and heavy rains.

Almost 91 percent of respondents in a 2012 survey conducted by the Ghana Agricultural Workers Union (GAWU) and Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) on the impact of climate change on the livelihood of farmers stated that their income decreased due to loss of crops or livestock resulting from bad weather conditions.

Deputy Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Babara Serwah Asamoah, has attributed Ghana’s poverty to climate change.

According to her, the effect of climate change is evident in the rapid change in rainfall patterns, long dry seasons, drying up of major streams and rivers, heavy erosion, loss of soil fertility, loss of biodiversity and drastic decline in none timber forest products.

A lot more is therefore needed than merely relying on the services of the weatherman to go into crop cultivation.

Ghana is fortunate to have former President John Kufour as UN Special Envoy on Climate Change. It is however up to the country to take advantage of his position to raise issues of climate mitigation and adaptation to benefit the local ecology.

It would be in the interest of Ghana to see the President’s Independence Day climate change awakening translate into programme of action for Ghana to achieve significant impact with its National Climate Change Policy.