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Christian Organisations Fail To Address The Real Problems Facing Africa

March 25, 2015

By Paul Homewood  




There was a very interesting Op-Ed by Calvin Beisner in the Christian Post last week, reacting to one of the seemingly endless and mindless bangings of the drum by Christian outfits over the perils of climate change.


E. Calvin Beisner

E. Calvin Beisner, Ph.D.,is the founder and national spokesman for The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation.


Late last year a group of evangelical environmentalists associated with the Office of Social Justice (OSJ) of the Christian Reformed Church, after returning from visiting Kenya, were featured in a series of videos titled "Climate Conversation: Kenya in which they say poor Kenyans are suffering from reduced rainfall caused by manmade global warming.

"It’s unfortunate, but farmers all over Africa are talking about changing weather patterns," says Dr. Dennis Garrity, Director General, World Agroforestry Center, U.S.A. "There has been enormous changes in the onset of the rainy season, the length of the rains, the duration and the intensity of drought during the rainy season. And it all fits the scientific evidence that Africa is in fact the area of the world that is going to suffer the most from climate change."

Craig Sorley, Care of Creation Director for Kenya, explains, "Farmers in the past, when I was a young man, always say the rains were so predictable. And now the rains have become very unpredictable. They are playing a guessing game as to when the rains are going to arrive."

A native Kenyan farmer, Margaret, says, "It used to rain in January. But now the rain has changed. It doesn’t come in January. Now it comes in February."

Sorley acknowledges that climate change isn’t the only factor causing water shortages in Kenya. Deforestation is another. Because of it, he says, "a lot of the water that comes to our landscape flows very quickly off of that landscape and goes down into the ocean, and leaves behind a rather dry landscape. I think that’s a combination of not only broader climate change across the globe but also as a result of the damage we have done to ourselves, to our landscapes."

"This issue of climate change can no longer be ignored," insists Kyle Meyaard-Schaap, OSJ Creation Care Coordinator, U.S.A. "I know it’s divisive, I know that it’s polarized, but that’s not a good enough excuse. I can’t look at the people that I talked to in this last ten days and tell them, ‘Yes, but, this issue is polarized, this issue hurts people’s feelings when you talk about it at home.’ That’s just not good enough for me anymore."

The implication is clear: To help the poor in Kenya (and other developing nations), we must fight global warming.

Yet the relevant climate facts in Kenya don’t support these claims.

First, Kenya has not experienced a significant upward trend in average temperature, either monthly or annually, as the data in this table show.


Kenya temperature history


The average annual temperature for 1990–2009 (the period when, supposedly, human activity had raised global temperature the most) was only 25 hundredths of 1 degree higher than the average for 1900–1990, an amount too small to have driven significant changes in Kenya’s climate, including its rainfall.

Yet the videos did cite native Kenyans saying January rainfall had diminished over their lifetimes, and February rainfall had increased, making it more difficult for them to schedule planting.

But childhood memories are notoriously poor data sources, both for the past and for comparison with the present. Hard data are indispensable.

And the hard data in the table below show that, while rainfall amounts have risen and fallen in Kenya since 1900, there is no significant trend.

In 1990–2009, Kenya’s average annual rainfall was 7.2% higher than in 1900–1930, 8.5% higher than in 1930–1960, 1.5% higher than in 1960–1990, and 5.7% higher than in 1900–1990. Thus, the United Nations Development Program concluded in its country profile for Kenya, "Observations of rainfall over Kenya since 1960 do not show statistically significant trends," and because annual amounts vary significantly more than those periodic averages, the same can be said for the entire 110-year period.

Contrary to the perceived memories reported in the videos, there was no reduction in rainfall in January or increase in February. The very opposite was true. Average January rainfall in 1990–2009 was 18.7% higher than in 1900–1930, 25.1% higher than in 1930–1960, 11.2% higher than in 1960–1990, and 18.1% higher than in 1900–1990. And average February rainfall in 1990–2009 was 4% lower than in 1900–1930, 4.4% higher than in 1930–1960, 4% lower than in 1960–1990, and 1.4% lower than in 1900–1990.


Kenya Rainfall History


Yet though not driven by changes in rainfall amounts, both droughts and floods might have become more common in Kenya.

Why? Because, as climatologist Dr. David Legates explained in his chapter in A Call to Truth, Prudence, and Protection of the Poor 2015: The Case against Harmful Climate Policies Gets Stronger, as population grows, demand for water increases, not just for drinking but also for agriculture, industry, and other uses, resulting in more frequent and severe droughts—even with no change in rainfall. And as undeveloped land is converted to agriculture (Kenya’s agricultural land increasing from about 252,000 to about 275,000 square kilometers from 1961–2011), demand for irrigation water grows, again resulting in more droughts—again even with no change in rainfall.

Conversely, as land becomes more paved or built up, and as it becomes deforested, it absorbs less rain, sending more runoff into streams, which then flood more frequently and severely—again, even with no change in rainfall. Both urban development and deforestation have occurred in Kenya.

Are poor Kenyans suffering from water shortages? Yes. Is that because of global warming—manmade or natural? No. Is fighting global warming the solution? No.

Despite its moderate annual rainfall totals (about 26 inches per year, similar to that of Kansas and Minnesota), Kenya is potentially a water-rich nation. It borders on Lake Victoria—the second-largest freshwater lake in the world by area and ninth-largest continental lake by volume.

Most of Kenya, including its driest part, the Great Rift Valley, is within 200 miles of Lake Victoria, a distance readily served by aqueducts.

For comparison, the Roman aqueducts, built two millennia ago, carried water 260 miles, and the system of aqueducts constituting the California State Water Project (SWP) provides drinking water for over 23 million people (roughly half the entire population of Kenya) by transporting water hundreds of miles from the Colorado River, the Sierra Nevada, and central and northern California. The shortest, the Colorado River Aqueduct, is over 240 miles long.

Of course, California is wealthy (though it wasn’t nearly so wealthy when much of the SWP was built), and Kenya is poor. How can Kenya afford to build such aqueducts—even if they would cover far less distance and serve only a small fraction of the people?

The real solution to Kenya’s water needs is economic growth that will enable Kenyans to bear the costs of improved water transportation, storage, purification, and conservation through efficient use.

Sad to say, however, if climate change activists succeed in enacting policies to fight global warming, Kenya’s economic growth will be curtailed.

Why? Because abundant, reliable, affordable energy is an essential condition of economic growth, and activists seek to fight global warming by shunning the use of the most reliable and affordable energy sources for the developing world—coal and natural gas—and putting far more expensive "Green" energy sources like wind and solar in their place.

As it happens, Kenya has an estimated 400 million tons of coal reserves and is about to begin mining them, making the coal available to generate electricity and deliver its people from the smoke that comes from burning wood and dried dung as primary cooking and heating fuels—smoke that causes high rates of illness and premature death, especially among women and children, from respiratory diseases.

In 2013, two other evangelicals made almost identical claims about climate change in Malawi. As I demonstrated then, those claims were false and based on the same kinds of mistakes shown in these videos.

I commend the good motives and lofty goals of those who make these claims. But motives and goals aren’t enough. Accurate facts are essential to wise decisions.

Ironically, and sadly, the climate policy the makers of these videos want will only bring further harm to the very people they long to help, by prolonging their poverty—the real threat to Kenyans’ health and life.


E. Calvin Beisner, Ph.D., is Founder and National Spokesman of the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation and author of several books on environmental stewardship.




It is a pleasant change to hear some commonsense from a church spokesman, particularly when it is backed up by thorough and knowledgeable research. It is about time that other religious organisations realised that their statements and actions are actually highly detrimental to the interests of Africans.

  1. March 25, 2015 1:41 pm

    Energy and Poverty are obviously tied together.

    “Access to cleaner and affordable energy options is essential for improving the livelihoods of the poor in developing countries. The link between energy and poverty is demonstrated by the fact that the poor in developing countries constitute the bulk of an estimated 2.7 billion people relying on traditional biomass for cooking and the overwhelming majority of the 1.4 billion without access to grid electricity. Most of the people still reliant on traditional biomass live in Africa and South Asia.

    The relationship is, in many respects, a vicious cycle in which people who lack access to cleaner and affordable energy are often trapped in a re-enforcing cycle of deprivation, lower incomes and the means to improve their living conditions while at the same time using significant amounts of their very limited income on expensive and unhealthy forms of energy that provide poor and/or unsafe services.”

    Click to access GEA_Chapter2_development_hires.pdf

    The moral of this is very clear. Where energy is scarce and expensive, people’s labor is cheap and they live in poverty. Where energy is reliable and cheap, people are paid well to work and they have a better life.

  2. March 25, 2015 5:19 pm

    hear, hear.

    In a global cooling period, such as we are experiencing now, one expects somewhat more clouds/rain around the equator, as indeed the rain data seems to confirm.

    • March 25, 2015 6:16 pm

      obviously, the worst of the cooling period is still to come; at least until 2040.
      It really was very cold in 1940’s….The Dust Bowl drought 1932-1939 was one of the worst environmental disasters of the Twentieth Century anywhere in the world. Three million people left their farms on the Great Plains during the drought and half a million migrated to other states, almost all to the West.
      I find that as we are moving back, up, from the deep end of the 88 year sine wave, there will be standstill in the change of the speed of cooling, neither accelerating nor decelerating, on the bottom of the wave; therefore naturally, there will also be a lull in pressure difference at that > [40 latitude], where the Dust Bowl drought took place, meaning: less weather (read: rain). However, one would apparently note this from an earlier change in direction of wind, as was the case in Joseph’s time. According to my calculations, this will start around 2020 or 2021…..i.e. 1927=2016 (projected, by myself and the planets…)> add 5 years and we are in 2021.
      Danger from global cooling is documented and provable. It looks we have only ca. 7 “fat” years left……
       We urgently need to develop and encourage more agriculture at lower latitudes, like in Africa and/or South America. This is where we can expect to find warmth and more rain during a global cooling period.
       We need to warn the farmers living at the higher latitudes (>40) who already suffered poor crops due to the droughts that things are not going to get better there for the next few decades. It will only get worse as time goes by.
       We also have to provide more protection against more precipitation at certain places of lower latitudes (FLOODS!), <[30] latitude, especially around the equator.

  3. March 25, 2015 5:31 pm

    Reblogged this on the WeatherAction News Blog and commented:
    One would have thought progressives would recognise Imperialism when they see it, but it’s all about saving the planet and those cuddly wuddly polar bears. Poor Africans can go to hell…

  4. Edmonton Al permalink
    March 25, 2015 5:40 pm

    Would somebody please tell Kyle Meyaard-Schaap, OSJ Creation Care Coordinator, U.S.A., that there has not been any global warming for over 18 +years?
    Also, tell that ignorant fool, that CO2 does NOT cause global warming. CO2 is plant food.
    Here are some facts re CO2:

    CO2 data shows nobody’s dead from a little carbon dioxide – ‘A little CO2 won’t hurt you. A lot of CO2 won’t hurt you. You breathe out 40,000 ppm with every breath. Do you worry about California banning YOU from breathing out?’
    The following summarizes levels of CO2 under various conditions:
    40,000 ppm: The exhaled breath of normal, healthy people.
    8,000 ppm: CO2 standard for submarines
    2,500 ppm: CO2 level in a small hot crowded bar in the city
    2,000 ppm: The point at which my CO2 meter squawks by playing Fur Elise
    1,000 to 2,000 ppm: Historical norms for the earth’s atmosphere over the past 550 million years
    1,000 to 2,000 ppm: The level of CO2 at which plant growers like to keep their greenhouses
    1,000 ppm: Average level in a lecture hall filled with students
    600 ppm: CO2 level in my office with me and my husband in it
    490 ppm: CO2 level in my office working alone
    390 ppm: Current average outdoor level of CO2 in the air
    280 ppm: Pre-industrial levels in the air, on the edge of “CO2 famine” for plants
    150 ppm: The point below which most plants die of CO2 starvation

    • March 25, 2015 6:01 pm

      Now that’s what I say, too. I am going to save a copy of this comment, as it summarizes what I had also figured out.

    • AndyG55 permalink
      March 25, 2015 11:48 pm

      Been making the point for ages that 280ppm is dangerously low.

      We actually need to push the atmospheric CO2 level UP to at least 700ppm to ensure the continued rise in plant and crop yields so we can feed the world’s populations.

  5. March 25, 2015 7:16 pm

    It is obvious that the pope hates black people.

  6. March 25, 2015 7:20 pm

    The climate is always changing. Some of the changes are longer term, so noticeable by a generation or two. We’re about to experience what appears to be a Bicentennial cycle – a few decades of serious cooling. Nobody alive has experienced that before. I’m sure it will also be blamed on human activity.

  7. Bloke down the pub permalink
    March 25, 2015 8:16 pm

    Unfortunately for the Kenyans, if anyone suggested building an aqueduct to take water from Lake Victoria to where the farmers need it, they would be swamped by western do-gooder environmentalists telling them why they can’t.

  8. March 26, 2015 2:07 am

    Here is a story for you I nearly made into a post, might be a counter-point

    Similarly I nearly posted on the silo collapse, guessing the effect

    What does Africa need?

  9. March 26, 2015 5:53 am

    Massive confirmation bias demonstrated by Calvin Beisner and the Christian Post. Seems they are so strongly trapped within their narrative, that rather than do the proper thing of using the best possible evidence, they grasp onto the anecdotal evidence they come across.
    – Irony city as yet again Inconvenient Truths are inGored.

    There’s a Berlin girl today at my hotel who mentioned Tanzania “The Climate Action org I work for has projects there” .. Yes probably trying to stop african’s from exploiting the vast coal resources they have
    – “The country currently has less than 1,000 MW operational out of the 2,000 MW”
    but 2 new coal mine and coal power projects are due to start
    2015-2018 600MW

    2016 Rukwa project 250 -300 MW mouth- of- mine thermal power plant

  10. AndyG55 permalink
    March 26, 2015 6:22 am

    I cannot understand why anyone that is a Christian would demonise carbon.

    If He is controlling man and Earth, then He placed that coal and fossil fuel there for us to use.

    It is there, just at the right time, when Man and the planet needs it for future development and food supply.

    It is sacrilege to deny the use of that which He has provided or us.

  11. March 26, 2015 11:13 am

    What a wonderful article. So clearly laid out; so lucid; so full of common sense; so logical; so obvious. Articles such as this should be on the front page of every newspaper.

    Thank you Paul for bringing us this (and Marc Morano for pointing to it).

  12. March 26, 2015 2:03 pm

    If the Kenyans build aqueducts, they will be taking water from downstream users.

    Many large rivers around the world are managed by water authorities who limit the amount of water that can be abstracted at various points.

    The Colorado River is so heavily exploited that at one time hardly any water was reaching the sea. The use of its water is now subject to numerous laws and international treaties.

    Although all riparian dwellers have rights to water, I can see increased Nile water usage in Kenya leading to conflict.

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