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It is all about control; controlling the greenhouse gases to the extent that the blanket created by carbon dioxide (CO2) is only warm enough for us on earth to be able to tolerate the temperature continuously and indefinitely.

Just like the electric blanket in bed – a must in the colder climates. But the world is hotter than it’s been in thousands of years, and it’s now as if every alarm bell on earth is ringing. Let’s remind ourselves of the internationally agreed target for climate control: The average global temperature increase since pre-industrial levels (that is, pre-1800s) must not exceed 1.5C by 2030.


And then be aware that, according to a recent World Meteorological Organisation report, there’s a 66 per cent chance that the annual global average temperature will hit the 1.5C mark within the next five years. In 2022 that figure was around 1.15C. We should not relax at what seems to be very small numbers. Climate scientists consider a 1.5C rise in the average global temperature a key tipping point, beyond which the chances of extreme flooding, drought, wildfires and food shortages could increase dramatically. Are there any global warming doubting Thomases reading this? Satellites orbiting our planet enable us to measure how much energy is arriving from the sun, and how much energy is leaving the earth, out into space. The measurements tell us that, over the last few decades, there has been a gradual decrease in the energy heading from earth’s surface back into space. Yet in the same period, the amount of energy arriving from the sun has hardly changed at all. Something is hanging onto that energy and getting stronger. That something is CO2 – doing exactly as Foote and Tyndall said it would 160 years ago.


Without rapid and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, the earth is currently on course to reach temperatures of roughly 3.0C  above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century, and possibly quite a bit higher. That’s disaster country. Do we want our future near ones and dear ones to have to face that? Of course not! What can we in Eswatini do about it? Not much, other than make our own tiny contribution to reducing global warming, and unite with other developing countries to scream like mad at the big boys who continue to emit greenhouse gas like it’s going out of fashion. Which it actually is!  

Excessive heat is bad for human health, and leads to a rise in hospitalisations for cardiovascular, kidney and respiratory diseases, especially among those unable to access air-conditioning. At an air temperature of 21C, the human body is pleasantly comfortable, but at 40C the heart is pumping an extra litre of blood per minute around the body to try to keep the core body temperature as near as possible to the required 37C. Excessive heat thus increases deaths from heart attacks and strokes. Let’s get back to this week and the coming months. El Niño – like the much wetter version, La Nina – typically occurs every two to seven years and lasts nine to 12 months. Well, we had the impact of El Niño exactly seven years ago and we’re told it’s coming again soon. It is the world’s most powerful naturally occurring climate fluctuation; part of an established pattern. It brings warmer water to the surface in the tropical Pacific Ocean, pushing warmer air into the atmosphere. It normally increases global air temperatures.

The terrible heatwaves are occurring because El Niño is returning in a world warmed by more greenhouse gases, says climate scientist Dr Friederike Otto, from Imperial College London.
Close to home, El Niño has historically been associated with record heat temperatures and droughts in summer rainfall regions of southern Africa. South African climate experts have called on the government, businesses and communities to increase awareness of the pending moderate-to-strong El Niño that is currently manifesting in the central Pacific region.


To throw the cat among the pigeons, let me mention that global warming doesn’t just produce heatwaves. Warmer oceans increase the amount of water that evaporates into the air. When more moisture-laden air moves over land or converges into a storm system, it can produce more intense precipitation – for example, heavier rain and snowstorms. The US state of Vermont has recently had two months of rain in two days. India and Japan have been swamped by extreme flooding. But we, in Eswatini, are told to expect drought. How can we prepare for, and mitigate the expected impacts of El Niño? Well, we do now have a National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) to lead the country in the necessary drought-mitigation measures.
Individually we should be collecting and conserving rainwater. The urgent need to maintain access to water should not need explaining. Have the shortcomings, painfully identified in the drought of 2016, been remedied?

The need for a water supply connection from Luphohlo Dam to Mbabane and for deeper dredging in Hawane Dam were vigorously voiced in 2016; problems sorted? Let’s hear some encouragement from the NDMA. In terms of heat, the lowveld population will be most vulnerable. In terms of water, all will be affected.