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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Kofi Adu Domfeh: There’s anger in the land and its heat-related

The night rains come as soothing relief to many homes and families in Ghana.

heat wave
Above-danger heat stress: A man cools off amid searing heat wave

But soon, the land is heated up, consuming the little moisture in the atmosphere to expose the real element of an unexpected changing weather.

The discomfort of the night’s heat is telling in many homes: children, couples, and everyone’s comforting sleep is tormented.

And when there is no electricity to offer some succour in fanning the hot air, anger is provoked in the land.

This is the reality of today’s hassling weather.

Ama runs a beauty salon in the densely populated Ayigya suburb of Kumasi. When there is an erratic power supply in what has become known as “dumsor”, the operation of her small salon comes to a halt. Earning enough to pay her four other hands becomes a challenge.

Ama is already thinking of investing in small solar systems as an alternative source of electricity to power her hairdryers. She is hoping to access support for the alternative renewable energy source.

For many small and large-scale businesses, the recent unannounced power outages have been frustrating to their income generation and limiting productivity at the workplace.

But when they return from a day’s unproductive work to a dark hot home at night, their anger peaks.

“I will sleep tired and wake up tired because of this heat. It’s suffocating when there is no light to turn on the fan,” said Ama.

“Can you believe I’ve not been in the mood for sex for almost three weeks? My husband does not even come close to me,” the mother of two sounded seriously jovial.

She explained how she had to soak towels in water to cool her sweaty children after hand fanning them for several minutes.

The common scenes

Heavy rains and heat waves are among hazards faced by the ever-growing global population.

Parts of Ghana, for instance, have experienced the rains in March, yet heat waves – that cut deep into the skin – abound.

With urbanisation and the spread of megacities, communities are exposed and vulnerable. And people get worried about the unbearable heat during the daytime and at night.

In the past couple of months, especially in February, the heat intensity has pushed an increase in the use of umbrellas in the afternoon.

The marketing and purchasing of air-conditioners are rising for homes and offices, as more motorists are getting their ACs on.

The voluntary use of nose masks in densely populated environments is on the ascendancy, as dust particles increase in the atmosphere.

And there is also an increase in the consumption of water to overcome dehydration and exhaustion.

The heat-induced anger

Electricity supply in most parts of Ghana has been erratic in recent days. This has got consumers angry, especially when the power outages come without notification of a planned schedule for load shedding.

Interestingly, street talk on the impact of the current erratic power supply is more profound at the household level than the commercial impact.

Obviously, the recent public anger towards “dumsor” is induced by the unfairness of the heat to the skin and inner being, especially at night.

Amid the power outages, a couple of mothers have attributed the death of their children on admission at the hospital to heat exhaustion.

Indeed, the extremes of the weather are here.

At the recently held inter-schools’ athletics competition in the Ashanti region, fire officers had to intervene in rescuing students from heat exhaustion at Baba Yara Stadium as they deployed fire tenders to spray water into the crowd. Temperatures rose 36°C, high above bearable limits, and the students suffered discomfort under the unbearable heat of the scorching sun.

The intimacy between some couples have been strained by the heat waves as their romantic intimacy of cuddling suffers in the hands of a discomforting night sweat under the hot still breeze.

The rising temperatures in parts of the world have been a threat to religious activities, especially in the period of fasting. Some fasting Muslims, for instance, have been advised to increase their intake of water at pre-dawn meals for energy to prevent dehydration.

Already, authorities at the Kintampo Health Research Centre are embarking on a study to measure the impact of climate change, particularly heat waves on the health of the local populace.

The move is to assess the risk of illnesses caused because of increasing temperatures fuelled by climate change.

Humid heatwaves driven by climate change

February this year was the hottest February on record globally and the ninth consecutive month in a row that a hottest month record was broken.

Climate change has an influence on extreme weather events such as heatwaves and excessive rains.

Climate change, caused by burning fossil fuels like oil, gas and coal, and deforestation, has made heatwaves more frequent, longer and hotter around the world.

According to a study by leading climate scientists from the World Weather Attribution group, human-caused climate change made the humid heatwave in southern West Africa during February ten times more likely.

Ghana is among countries in West Africa hit by an unusually intense humid heatwave and has broken temperature records above 40°C in February 2024.

The researchers say developing heat action plans will help protect vulnerable people from dangerous heatwaves in West Africa.

The study also found that if humans do not rapidly move away from fossil fuels, causing global warming to rise to 2°C above pre-industrial levels, West Africa will experience similar heatwaves about once every two years.

This “global boiling” as termed by UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, became profound during the recent African Cup of Nations (AFCON) football tournament as a “cooling break” was introduced to allow players to dehydrate from the humid conditions.

Long-term climate change is increasing the intensity and frequency of the humid environment. Urban areas experience higher temperatures than surrounding rural areas due to reduced vegetation and increased heat-absorbing surfaces.

The sixth report of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) underscores the urgency of climate action.

The energy in the heat

The high temperatures come with heat-related illness, especially respiratory and other chronic diseases.

Because they may be extremely fatal for the elderly and other persons with underlying health concerns, heatwaves are often referred to as “silent killers.”

Preterm contractions, general discomfort, and spontaneous abortion in the early stages of pregnancy might possibly result from the heat wave.

If left ignored, dehydration can result in more severe issues including heat exhaustion, heat stroke, skin infections, mental health issues, and even death.

Experts advise the intake of adequate intake of water to remain hydrated and stay safe from headaches, fatigue, muscle cramps, and dizziness.

And when people are unable to sleep well at night, workplace productivity and academic performances are adversely impacted.

But there could be opportunities.

The most reliable source of clean energy in most African nations is solar power. According to Global Energy Monitor statistics, by the end of 2023, solar is estimated to account for 67 per cent of the growth in renewable energy capacity globally, with Africa accounting for a 1.7 percent.

Clean energy advocates believe it is time to turn to solar power by taking advantage of the abundant sunshine.

Perhaps, the anger in the voice of Ghanaians will be better managed if the country takes the lead in adopting or increasing new energy sources that are clean and sustainable.

Small business managers like Ama, the beautician, will be glad to adopt such energy sources.

But this will require major investments in Africa to build resilience to dangerous heat. The UN has estimated that the cost of adaptation for developing countries is between US$215-387 billion per year this decade.

However, rich countries haven’t yet met the financial promises they have made to help developing countries become more resilient to the growing risks of climate change.

In addition, these commitments fall drastically short of the finance required – in 2021, the global community delivered just US$21 billion to help developing countries adapt to climate change.

Executive Secretary, UN Climate Change, Simon Stiell, in acknowledging the latest temperature increases that have been off the charts, spoke about a world where clean energy is abundant and affordable.

He emphasised the need to make climate finance bigger and better to undo the deadlock between developed and developing countries for “a world where every nation is safe, opportunities are shared, and 10 billion people are protected from climate impacts”.

Kofi Adu Domfeh is a Journalist, Climate Reality Leader and Green Advocate. Email: adomfeh@gmail.com

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