Monday, April 25, 2016

The Hidden Cost of Fossil Fuels (Part 1)

Francis Npong

Climate change has been identified as a major threat to sustainable health and development in Africa and the world at large. 

With its devastating impacts on agriculture, water resources, forest, human and animal health, and ecological system, climate change has become a major threat to people’s lives and development.

Climate change is already causing damages in infrastructure, and health systems in Ghana. The devastating evidence of climate change on livelihoods, economic and infrastructure development is obvious. 

“The poor and vulnerable communities are already being hurt, our livelihood and health is under threat in the wake of climate change. We have identified the underlining causes of climate change but we are unable to take measures to control these underlining causes majority of which are human activities”, says Eric Anaba, a Ghanaian research scientist.

As a research scientist, Anaba is already worried about the depressing farmers, poor crop yields, and increasing water stresses across Ghana. Climate change, he said is contributing to worsening vulnerability of the poor in the country. 

Air Pollution
“Climate change has become a major threat to global efforts aimed at ending poverty, malnutrition, migration and hunger and inequality in Africa”, he said.

Compromised Air Quality

There is already a national mask wearing policy in China, the biggest polluter. China is known for extensive use of coal-fired plants in the production sector. China emits more than 350 million metric tons of toxic substances into the atmosphere annually. The uncontrolled emission in China however led to the pollution of clean air-hence a policy to wear face mask.

Ghana must necessarily learn lessons from China. Clean air is essential to life and good health. Several important pollutants are produced by fossil fuel combustion: carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, sulfur oxides, and hydrocarbons. 

Also, total suspended particulates which contribute to air pollution, nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons can combine in the atmosphere to form tropospheric ozone, the major constituent of smog.

Carbon monoxide is a gas formed as a by-product during the incomplete combustion of all fossil fuels. Exposure to carbon monoxide can cause headaches and place additional stress on people with heart disease. Cars and trucks are the primary source of carbon monoxide emissions.

Nitrogen oxides irritate the lungs to cause bronchitis and pneumonia. It also decreases resistance to respiratory infections according to health experts.

People Wearing Mask Due to Air Pollution
Based on the above information, Ghana, whose health systems are already overburdened would collapse if there is an increased use of fossil fuel.

The urgent need for energy to power the economic sector should not lure Ghanaian authorities into adopting coal energy. Coal, based on its contributions to climate change should be considered as alternative in the quest for sustainable energy. The price of adopting coal would be too huge to pay in future. 

Ghana’s health system is already weak and would stress if authorities continue to depend on fossil fuel rather than clean energy such as wind, solar and gas.

Already, Ghanaian’s rapid response to epidemic is discouraging and the only way stay out of climate change shocks is to adopt measures that would not contribute to worsening of health and livelihoods.

The use of fossil fuels would compromise people health and worsen the already fragile health sector of the nation.

Environmental Journalist
Climate Change Communication Consultant
+233 (0) 209 33 62 86

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