Global Climate Change
As is evident by South Africa’s persistent, severe drought, we are in the middle of a human-driven climate change. Assuming that everyone wants to help limit the effect of climate change, people need to limit their carbon footprint. Recycling, conserving water, shopping for local produce, and using a bicycle or public transformation are some small acts that can go a long way if everyone makes an effort to implement them into their daily lives. A single individual alone can’t effectively reduce the effects of climate change but everyone coming together to reduce their carbon footprint can.
Many countries have come up with their own solutions to help fight climate change. South Africa’s most pressing climate change concern is the water shortage. South African leaders’ responses have been to find alternative water sources such as programs to convert sea water into clean drinking water and to forcibly limit their people’s water consumption. When their water reserves are at around 13% capacity, Cape Town’s government will close the water taps and force people to wait in line for their allotted water for the day, according to National Geographic.
Many countries have environmental protection laws aimed at reducing the effects of climate change. The top 10 countries with the strongest environmental laws include Lithuania, Latvia, Russia, the USA, South Africa, the UK, Hungary, Bulgaria, Panama, and Colombia, according to the World Resources Institute. These countries have specific policies in place to help reduce their carbon footprint and reverse some of the effects of climate change they have had a hand in creating. The United States has the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Response Conservation and Recovery Act, and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, according to Carnegie Mellon University.
All of these policies exist to protect US citizens from dangerous pollutants and unsafe environmental conditions such as toxic drinking water. The Environmental Protection Agency monitors water sources, soil, and the air for pollutants dangerous to humans, animals, and the environment, according to its website. It was created to monitor and enforce policies aimed to reduce pollution and human-caused environmental disasters. Europe has the European Environment Agency and European Environmental Information and Observation Network, which partners with several European countries that gather and publish data similar to the United States’ EPA. The EPA also has a new partnership with many European countries aimed at reducing global vehicle emissions, transboundary pollution, and promoting energy and resource efficiency, according to the EPA. South Africa has its Department of Environmental Affairs, which seems like a simplified version of the United States’ EPA. It’s meant to promote sustainability, according to its website. Surprisingly, its website contains very little about the ongoing drought.
While these seem like big picture policies, many of these programs, when enforced, really do help cut down a country’s carbon footprint. The EPA closely monitors large corporations, which produce the largest amounts of greenhouse gasses, as well as the different branches of the US economy and finds ways to decrease their emissions.
I think the United States, Canada, and most of Europe agree that reducing their carbon footprint by regulating corporations, promoting recycling and water conservation, and limiting vehicle emissions. But, I don’t think many countries are willing to follow their lead. Even the United States is responsible for a large chunk of carbon dioxide emissions every year. China is the largest country, so it makes sense that it would have one of the largest carbon dioxide emissions but it is just recently showing signs of heading towards a greener future. China, as well as most countries, sign the Paris Climate Agreement promising to lowering their carbon dioxide emissions and keep the global average temperature similar to pre-industrial levels, according to Wired. It’s not really enforceable, but the agreement is a sign of faith from all those who signed it to work to help reverse the effects of climate change for a more environmentally friendly future.
Environmental Issues in South Africa
As previously discussed, South Africa’s biggest environmental crisis is its three-year drought, which has led to a severe water shortage. Surprisingly, water.org does not work in South Africa. This program aims to “end the water crisis” by helping people gain easy access to clean drinking water, according to its website. Instead, South Africa has other programs and organizations aimed at promoting sustainability and water improvements. South Africa’s The Water Show is a large conference where innovators meet and show off their inventions and theories aimed at finding more efficient ways to meet South Africa’s demand for clean water, according to its website.
Greenpeace Africa are active in South Africa and are currently trying to persuade newly appointed President Cyril Ramaphosa to back green energy as one of his first actions as president, according to News24. The Mvula Trust is also one of the major organizations that brings clean drinking water to those in need in South Africa during the water shortage. It was established in 1993 and has offices in seven provinces. It teaches South Africans how to harvest rainwater as well as hosting workshops focused on finding ways to improve wastewater treatment, according to its website. I suspect as Day Zero approaches, more environmental groups and aid will flood to South Africa to help with the ongoing crisis.