Man’s thinking about climate change often too simplistic: Expert

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University of KwaZulu-Natal Emeritus Professor Roland Schulze warns that man’s thinking about climate change is often too simplistic.

KwaZulu-Natal is picking up the pieces after at least 19 people died since October 25th over persistent rain, storms, flash floods and tornados.

However, Schulze says climate change does not only entail extreme weather events, saying that there are other aspects that do not get highlighted that have a huge impact on people’s lives.

Fresh produce traders at the Verulam market north of Durban say this has not been a good year for their crops.

After the recent weeks of persistent rain, vegetable farms are water-logged and crops are being spoilt.

Lavina Maharaj explains, “All our things (crops) have perished because of the rain. Our spinach, melting, Dhania, melting, lettuce all in rain, peppers and chillies is standing in water. We needed the rain. But the recent rain was too much. We really lost out.”

Emeritus Professor at the University of KwaZulu-Natal Roland Schulze says while climate change is undeniable, it must not be oversimplified.

“And not everything that we are experiencing now are climate change. We’ve had worse tornados in the past. So a lot of things that people ascribe to climate change may just be part of the normal climate. But climate change is nevertheless happening; on two issues: one, are the gradual changes and one are the extreme changes,” adds Schulze.

Schulze warns that even scientists tend to focus on one aspect – like the rise in global temperature – while other important effects are not mentioned.

He adds, “We’re just looking at: temperature is going to change, but water temperature changing has far worse repercussions for all of us: our waste water treatment works, imagine Eskom – when it works – cooling its cooling towers with warmer water – they will need more water. All of these repercussions, diseases, water-borne diseases like malaria, cholera, and so forth. They are what is going to really hit home to us.”

He says while some governments may get bogged down in reports on climate change, the private sector is quicker to react to climate change.

“The macadamia industry in South Africa just came to us and said where should we [plant our trees] in future. Because a macadamia tree is in the ground for 30 years, where in future should we encourage people not to or encourage people to plant macadamias in light of climate change; so private industry is quite smart.”

However, small scale farmers- like the Verulam traders- say they do not have the money to make the changes to mitigate or adapt to changing weather patterns.

Schulze gives many talks to Women’s Institute branches and farmers’ unions on climate change.

He says they are responsive to the complex science if he shows them a map of what changes are likely to occur where.

Tune into The Agenda on SABC’s channel 404, between 9am and midday, for a panel discussion on climate change.

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