By Henry Owino(ScienceAfrica Correspondent)
African Scientists have vowed not to lose hope on the fight against climate change as per the Paris Agreement ratification despite US pull out. However, they admitUS exit as the main funder is unfortunate for African countries which carry the burden of already devastating climate change impact.
Speaking at African Academy of Sciences’ workshop in Nairobi, Kenya, on the Science and Governance of Solar Radiation Management, Prof Asfawossen Asrat Kassaye of Addis Abba University, Ethiopia, said African scientists have the knowledge to pursue SRM instead of being left behind.
Prof Kassaye disclosed that already the world is discussing other ways of tackling climate change effects yet Africa is still lagging behind waiting for policies at the implementation levels. He challenged African Scientists to come out and engage themselves with the ongoing research on Solar Radiation Management (SRM).
Solar Radiation Management is a new technology and innovation that is aimed at reducing heat from the sunlight on earth by deflecting it back into the space. This is by exploring the earth and different layers in the atmosphere.
Prof Kassaye emphasized SRM an innovation that need to be carefully studied and understood by African Scientists while still at its initial stages. He hinted that SRM is the only way to quickly stop or slow the rise in temperatures.
Prof Kassaye said not all projected climate change risks and adaptations can be mitigated or dealt with as policy. However, he anticipated that SRM would generally reduce climate change effects, different compared to a world with elevated greenhouse gases (GHG) concentrations and no SRM. Gases that trap heat in the atmosphere are called greenhouse gases.
The Professor of Science said with SRM, there would be also residual differences in climate change effects in terms of hydrology. These include evaporation, transpiration and precipitation hence making continents have control over their atmospheric temperatures.
“Solar Radiation Management is not an alternative way to mitigation but it is the way known to slow or stop temperatures rising in the short term. With SRM in place, the world would be more tolerable to it than a world of climate change effects. But the benefits would not be universal,” Prof Kassaye said.
“SRM is more beneficial to very cold (winter) countries where excess heat from the thermosphere can be easily unleashed to warm it. Hot continent like Africa, excess heat from sunlight is deflated into the thermosphere,” he added.
The thermosphere literally means “heat sphere” is the outer layer of the atmosphere, separated from the mesossphere by the mesopause. Within the thermosphere temperatures rise continually do well beyond 1000 degrees Celsius.
The few molecules that are present in the thermosphere receive extraordinary amounts of energy from the Sun, causing the layer to warm to such high temperatures. Air temperature, however, is a measure of the kinetic energy of air molecules, not of the total energy stored by the air.
Therefore, since the air is so thin within the thermosphere, such temperature values are not comparable to those of the troposphere or stratosphere hence the technology and innovation behind the SRM.
“Although the measured temperature is very hot, the thermosphere would actually feel very cold to human-being because the total energy of only a few air molecules residing there would not be enough to transfer any appreciable heat to human skin,” Prof Kassaye explained.
Prof Shem Wandiga lecturer, University of Nairobi, recalled the 2016 United Nations climate conference reaffirmation by nearly 200 countries of their “highest political commitment” to combating global warming.
Prof Wandiga regretted climate change skeptic United States President, Donald Trump remarks and pulling out of the Paris Accord and commitments and termed it as an enemy of atmosphere.
Prof Wandiga said after all Paris Accord 2016, reflects the fact that highlights of the conference were presentations by individual countries of their plans to achieve agreed national targets in cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
“This is a key step and reflects the fact that the Paris Agreement is a flexible, “bottom-up” approach where countries developed spoke freely of their plans to realize emissions targets with national and sub-national governments working in partnership with business community,” Prof Wandiga said.
“In other words, while the Paris Agreement created a global architecture for tackling global warming, it recognizes that diverse, often decentralized policies will be required by different types of economies to meet climate commitments,” Prof Wandiga clarified.
Prof Wandiga acknowledged while the wisdom of SRM appears obvious, it represents a breakthrough away from the more rigid “top-down” Kyoto Protocol framework of 1997.
Prof Wandiga noted while Kyoto worked in 1997 for the 37 developed countries and the European Union states who agreed it, a different way of working is needed for the more complex Paris deal.
“The Paris Agreement involves more than 170 diverse developing and developed states that agreed to reduce global carbon dioxide emissions by 80 percent by 2050. Now we need not to be left behind in this SRM either way socially or politically,” Prof Wandiga emphasized.
Prof Ratemo Michieka, Fellow and Honorary Secretary of the Kenya National Academy of Sciences (KNAS) said SRM is a good approach and makes sense as reflected in the diversity of climate measures for different countries. It means countries have started to make response to global warming effects but must be politically endeavored to succeed.
“For every research on technology and innovation to succeed, there must be political will without which no funding and licensing it can get. Research needs money, so let us involve governments in this SRM innovation early enough instead of complaining for lack of funds,” Michieka challenged fellow participants.