On Sunday night University of Colorado’s Inside the Greenhouse group hosted an ‘Climate Wise Women’ event. Constance Okollet and Ngozi Onuzo (from Uganda and Nigeria) talked about the impact of climate change in their lives. Constance Okollet described a flood that washed most of her village away, a drought that followed and the ongoing difficulties with changing weather. What stuck me especially about Constance’s story was that it was not until after she had lived thorough these life changing natural disasters that she become aware that the dramatic changes in weather patterns she was witnessing were the types of weather pattern changes scientists link to climate change.
Here in the West many us have grown up ‘knowing’ about climate change but the early impacts of a changing climate have been relatively minor in comparison to Constance’s experiences. For example, few us had to share a house with 28 neighbours for extended periods of time because only one house survived a flood. Constance’s experiences have created a more embodied and experiential way of ‘knowing’ about climate risk than ‘knowing’ about climate change from reading an article, watching a documentary or even analyzing the data.
Constance Okollet and Ngozi Onuzo’s experiences of a changing climate are ultimately the result of greenhouse gas pollution created (historically) by Europe and North America – now also due to emissions in China and other emerging economies following fossil fuel intensive models of development. Tragically, much of the most intense early impacts of climate change are in Africa, despite most African countries having very low greenhouse gas emissions.
As the early impacts of climate change are felt in North America, will experiences of natural disasters help create a more profound awareness of climate risks in this continent? On the 24th of October IceCAPS will host a free event where we will consider how experiences of the flood in Colorado can inform our understanding on climate risks. Please see the following blog for details.