The silent cry for more action in Zambia’s climate crisis

Zambia is no stranger to the devastating impacts of climate change. 2023 has proven to be one of the most catastrophic years for the country, with deadly flooding, dubbed the worst in fifty years, followed by tropical storms and prolonged droughts. These calamities have thrust Zambia into the global spotlight as a poignant reflection of the escalating threats posed by climate change.

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According to the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Initiative (ND-GAIN) Country Index, Zambia is among the nations that are most vulnerable to the impact of climate change and unfortunately, ranks low in resilience. The country’s heavy reliance on rain-fed agriculture, which engages about two-thirds of the workforce, and its dependence on hydropower for energy, make it particularly susceptible to climate-induced shocks.

These fluctuations pose severe threats to Zambia’s food production, electricity supply, and overall economic growth. However, despite the glaring evidence and immediate impacts, there is a worrying trend of climate change awareness or rather, the lack thereof, among Zambians.

The Afrobarometer survey, a reputable research network providing crucial data on African perceptions of democracy, governance, and quality of life, recently unveiled that less than half of Zambians have heard of climate change.

From the survey conducted between August and September 2022, it was revealed that only 44% of Zambians were familiar with the term ‘climate change’. This percentage drops significantly among rural residents, women, the less educated and the economically disadvantaged. Interestingly, awareness of climate change was notably higher among frequent news consumers.

Those who were aware of climate change showed a strong resolve in backing government action to combat this crisis, even if it comes with significant economic costs. A staggering 82% of Zambians aware of climate change believe it is making life in the country worse. These Zambians see the fight against climate change as a collective responsibility and are urging for more significant engagement from the government, businesses, industries, more developed nations, and ordinary citizens.

The majority of Zambians familiar with climate change believe that more action is needed from various sectors to combat the climate crisis. About 78% demand more action from the government, 73% from businesses and industries, 68% from ordinary citizens, and 67% from more developed countries.

Zambia has taken steps towards addressing climate change, having committed to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Kyoto Protocol. The country has integrated climate change interventions in its Vision 2030 and successive five-year national development plans. However, as the Afrobarometer survey suggests, the country and the world need to do more.

A climate crisis is unfolding in Zambia, and it requires immediate, concerted efforts from all stakeholders. The call for action is evident among those aware of climate change. For Zambia, an essential first step would be to invest in raising awareness and understanding of climate change among its population. Simultaneously, it must develop robust, sustainable strategies to mitigate the impacts of climate change while building a resilient nation.

As the country faces its most challenging era due to climate change, the cry for more action is not only loud but also filled with urgency. The task at hand is monumental, but the resolve of Zambians who understand the crisis is even greater.

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