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I have a beef with this bully: climate change must be tackled head-on

As KZN residents recover from the floods, we should be jumping into action

24 April 2022 - 17:04 By James Preston
Climate change will produce more extreme weather such as the recent KZN's floods in KwaZulu-Natal, and SA's ageing infrastructure cannot cope, say experts.
Climate change will produce more extreme weather such as the recent KZN's floods in KwaZulu-Natal, and SA's ageing infrastructure cannot cope, say experts.
Image: RUSSELL CHEYNE/Reuters

Climate change is now so tangible that it is staring us down like an intimidating bully on the proverbial playground.

The bully stands as a cumulus tower out over the Indian Ocean, looking back at the land and lives it has devoured, without regard for the souls it has destroyed. Its indifference to sentient life will ensure it devours millions more.

In the midst of devastating tragedy, as mothers mourn the loss of their children and brothers distress over the deaths of their siblings, we must confront the reality. A confrontation will compel us to invest more energy into fighting the bully and reduce it forthcoming death toll in generations to come.

James Preston.
James Preston.
Image: supplied

Our climate is changing at a frightening pace and will continue to create unprecedented, extreme weather events the world over, causing catastrophe and heartache for multitudes.

While the science is overwhelming that climate change is manufactured by humans’ deposits of carbon into our greenhouse atmosphere, debating over its cause is wasted energy. As KwaZulu-Natal residents recover from loss, we should be triggered into action.

Again, turning to science, the evidence is enormous that our changing climate has increased temperatures in our atmosphere, activating extreme weather events. These temperature increases cause the simplest trigger of devastation: the surface of our planet warms up.

Sounds simple but a surprising number of people who experience freezing snow or wet floods then struggle to comprehend a “warming surface temperature” in their worldview. Increased surface temperatures prompt the main ingredient here: increased evaporation.

At a fundamental level, this results in two primary problems:

  • Drought: Less water on land as the soils get drier and less arable.
  • Floods/snow: The increased evaporation as the oceans get warmer creates more water in the air. This then creates larger cloud systems that move over land and prompt devastating precipitation such as the floods we have just witnessed, snow storms, tornadoes, cyclones and more. A warming climate means colder conditions due to the monumental size of the cold fronts it creates.

Rising surface temperatures means drier dry seasons and wetter wet seasons.

After such destruction wrought across KwaZulu-Natal, surely it is time to be shaken out of our complacency and put our collectively brilliant minds to work?

Yes, Durban is only one city among countless, and yes, this is one warning signal among thousands, but I write under provocation by a bully still in sight. My hope is that it brings awareness to even a handful who may not have previously considered our situation and that it contributes to the collective consciousness of building for better.

Evolution has always been about adapting to and fighting against the elements of the universe. The entropic chaos that is the inevitability of our universe requires god-like ingenuity, and humanity has evolved to the smartest consciousness in our known cosmos. Tools to mitigate climate change lie within this consciousness, waiting to be unlocked.

We are in dire need of carbon-capture technology at scale, environmentally friendly energy sources for air, sea and land travel, safe and affordable nuclear energy generation, flood-proof civilisation and drought-proof farmland. And we need them fast.

While responsible consumption is imperative, asking our evolved civilisation to curb it is like asking Neanderthals to return to eating their meat uncooked. A species cannot curtail its progress. It can only adjust to the changes it has caused. And adjust we absolutely must.

I remain optimistic. But I am in no way ignorant of the enormity of the challenge at hand.

We are on a collision course with global tragedy, and adequate preparation is absolutely critical.

James Preston is a technology reporter and speaker based in Kloof, KwaZulu-Natal. He has been writing about groundbreaking technologies since 2011 in global publications such as Guru Magazine, Tomorrow Today Global and IT Web. He is the founder of The Kernel Media, a media company reporting on technologies and ideas that will contribute to a better future for all.

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