Year after year, the discussions on climate change seem not to be yielding the needed results. Climate change in Ghana is one of the defining environmental challenges of our time as recurrent extreme weather issues such as droughts and floods are having a devastating effect on most economic, social and environmental systems.
There is no doubt that the impact of climate change in Ghana is beginning to manifest with evidence abounding that temperatures in all the ecological zones are rising, whereas rainfall levels have been generally reducing and patterns have increasingly becoming erratic. Unless mechanisms are carefully and systematically put in place to reduce vulnerability, climate change may pose serious challenges to national development. This article will provide you with a list of causes and effects of climate change in Ghana and evidence of climate change in the country.
Causes and effects of climate change in Ghana
In all this, we need to know that the climate change referred to in this article is Anthropogenic climate change which is the type caused by human activities as opposed to changes in climate that may have resulted as part of the earth’s natural processes. The human activities, particularly, out-of-control industrialisation, the burning of fuels, the cutting down of trees and other agricultural activities, release gases including Carbon(iv)oxide (CO2), Methane (CH4) and Nitrous Oxide (N2O) into the atmosphere. These gases, on reaching the stratosphere, have the ability to trap the infrared radiation (sun’s energy), which reflects in the form of temperature.
Below are a number of causes and effects of climate change:
- It has resulted in an increase in the earth’s surface temperature, sea level, precipitation, droughts and floods. Evidence of climate change in Ghana is visible as parts of the Northern Region of Ghana experience drought and flooding which has become a yearly worry to the people and the government. People along the banks of the Volta river are constantly rendered displaced, homeless. As a result of the situation, agricultural production has declined. Changes in rainfall patterns and temperature have also led to an ecological imbalance, causing an influx of pests and diseases like cerebrospinal meningitis which is quite common in the Northern Region of Ghana.
- Aquatic life in the south has been affected, reducing the economic activity of most inhabitants who are mainly fishermen. This has led to many not being able to find alternatives to raising their living standards and adversely affecting education, health and social well-being. Climate change in Ghana has become a serious threat to the livelihood of the people.
List of effects of climate change in Ghana
Climate change issues in Ghana are enormous running through education, tourism, employment and transport. Some of the effects that climate change in Ghana include
- Educational infrastructure has been damaged as a result of climate change's direct impact on education. The severe weather conditions according to the 2007 National Disaster Management Organisation's (NADMO) report for example collapsed school buildings. Two hundred and ten (210) schools were affected by the flood with one hundred and ninety nine (199) classrooms reported to have collapsed.
- On employment, increase in temperature, decrease in rainfall and its unpredictability is likely to jeopardize the employment of about 60% of the active population, the majority of whom are small scale rural farmers, resulting in unsustainable livelihoods with negative consequences for poverty, health, education, gender equality environmental degradation and food security. Food security is expected to be affected in the sense that the reliance on rain-fed and low-input agriculture will mean that output will decline, resulting in lower incomes for farmers. This will in turn increase poverty levels and heighten the risk of malnutrition.
- Climate change issues in Ghana has also led to a reduction in underground recharge and annual river flows which can lead to water shortage in the near future. This is evident in CSIR-WRI 2000 report on Climate Change and water resources which estimates that by the year 2020, all river basins will be vulnerable and the whole country will face acute water shortage. It also predicts a general reduction in annual river flows in Ghana by 15-20 % for the year 2020 and 30-40 % for the year 2050 and a reduction in groundwater recharge of 5-22 % for 2020 and 30-40% for 2050.
- In the transport sector, due to the changing weather patterns road networks easily get damaged. They get damaged as a result of either erosion or flooding or even extreme heat.
- The tourism sector as a result of the causes and effects of climate change in Ghana is expected to increased infrastructural damage, higher industry operating operating expenses (e.g. insurance, back-up water & power systems and evacuations) and inconvenience, risk, danger and high cost of holidays to tourists.
Impact of climate change on agriculture in Ghana
The impact of climate on agriculture in Ghana will be dire if prudent measures to mitigate the menace by political leaders since agricultural yields are plummeting and will continue to do so. Lest Ghanaians forget, about 60 percent of its population is in agriculture with most being smallholder farms using rudimentary technology. Evidence of climate change in Ghana is becoming glaring as the Comprehensive Food Security and Vulnerability Analysis report (2009), World Food Programme note cereal crop yield alone is predicted to plunge by 7% in the next 40 years. By 2009, “5% of the Ghanaian population, or 1.2 million people, had very limited access to sufficient and nutritious food for an active and healthy life” it also states.
Some of the climate change issues in Ghana on agriculture include reduced soil fertility due to changes in precipitation and temperature, rainfall deficits resulting in desertification of grazing pastures and reduced water availability for animals. Shifts in agro-ecological zones that are too rapid for trees and farming systems to adapt to, loss of cropland from erosion and desertification and increased demand for irrigation are also other impacts of climate change on agriculture in Ghana.
Farmers are also hit by low yields caused by low rainfall or flooding and the increased incidence of pest attacks resulting from an increase in temperature. In the southern part of Ghana there is coastal erosion and destruction of valuable coastal agricultural land and in the north we are witnessing out-migration of people, especially to southern Ghana, with impact on national security. There is also the experience of more vector and vector-borne diseases all as a result of climate change.
Agriculture and food security are also intertwined and thus climate change induced unsustainable livelihoods will result in negative consequences on food security, poverty, health, education, gender equality and environmental degradation.
In response to the challenges, Ghana has integrated the Ghana Climate Change Policy which provides a clear pathway for dealing with the challenges of climate change. The policy addresses four areas of concern to climate change and variability namely increasing greenhouse gas emissions and loss of carbon sinks, increasing temperatures, rising sea levels and rainfall variability leading to extreme and unpredictable events. Though the Ghana Climate Change Policy is a good initiative, implementation is most likely going to be difficult as the policy has no firm grounds in terms of implementation let alone sustainability.