By Raymond Utuedhe
Climate change is a paradoxical subject. While the best scientific information points to a clear threat to the future of humanity, the political and public responses to this challenge have been relatively weak.
Climate change, also known as global warming, refers to the rise in average surface temperatures on Earth. An overwhelming scientific consensus maintains that climate change is due primarily to the human use of fossil fuels, which releases carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the air.
Climate change is a global issue calling for urgent attention. Writing about the dire effects of climate change in the Nigeria , as a climate change writer, cannot be more important anytime than now, because Nigeria is one of the most vulnerable countries to the harshest impacts of climate change, ranging from greenhouse gas effects, flooding, acid rain typhoons, rising sea levels, rising sea temperatures resulting in depletion of marine organisms, earth tremor, wind storms, land and mud slides, desertification, erosion, pollution, deforestation among several others leading to loss of lives and properties.
The year 2017 witnessed series of climate-related disasters in Nigeria, ranging from the increased health risk, declining agricultural productivity, biodiversity loss, drying lakes, famine, conflicts or social unrest, poverty, worsening food insecurity situation, heat stress, declining soil capacity for agricultural production, increased natural disaster, extreme weather events, among others.
One of the major country-specific effects of climate change in Nigeria is declining agricultural productivity, which is due to the irregular, unpredictable farming calendar. The usual April-October rainy season and the October-March dry season is no longer a constant as it has been for some decades now. Farmers now plant in the midst of great uncertainties, thus resulting in untold losses, for their investment waste away from lack of rainfall at the right time. Consequently, this result in decline in productivity, and the income of Nigerian farmers, as well as a fall in the agriculture share of GDP.
Some four decades ago, the Lake in Nigeria covered an area of over 40,000 square kilometers, whereas it now encompasses a mere 1,300 square kilometers. While the negative trend continues unabated as land is laid to waste by the rising temperature leading to the rapid southward expansion of the Sahara Desert. Farmlands and surrounding villages became barren and were swallowed up by advancing desertification, which led to massive migration of people in search of more fertile terrain from the north east towards the greener plateau and middle belt regions. According to the reports, the growing desertification forced thousands of Fulani herdsmen to move to the south and middle belt leading to clashes with crop farmers culminating in death of hundreds.
Nigeria’s Guinea Savannah region is not spared either. Logging and over dependence on firewood for cooking have stripped a greater part of this area of its vegetation cover. The situation is similarly replicated in the south, where the forest around Oyo has long been reduced to grassland.
The south – eastern part of the country has been struck by a different ill. There, gulley-erosion has devastated many settlement areas and farmlands, leading to poverty among local populations.
And, it doesn’t stop there. Just as desertification is devastating vast areas of the north, rising sea levels are threatening Nigeria’s coastal regions. Although a source of oil wealth, the Niger Delta’s low-lying terrain and crisscross of waterways make it extremely vulnerable to flooding, apart from being at the risk of rising sea level, it has fallen victim of extreme oil pollution.
Negligence and a failure to tackle the issue of climate change by successive governments have also contributed to the rise of insurgency groups across the country. Against this backdrop, if appropriate, preventive action is not taken and adaptation measures are not implemented in time, the results could be catastrophic.
The situation is so critical that, by the International Energy Agency’s assessment, if we continue not to remedy it, emissions will be up 130% by 2050. Other countries with high emission rates are Russia, India, Germany, Australia and Canada. Most of the emissions that reach the atmosphere come from Coal (43%), followed by Oil (33%).
It has been warned that countries must rapidly direct their development toward clean and renewable energy, to curb emissions and avoid the dark forecast for 2050. Global warming and climate change is a global problem, and need to be addressed globally but individual nation can address this issue separately and responsibly.
The Vice President of Nigeria, Prof. Yemi Osibanjo, during the inauguration of the Nigeria Climate Innovation Centre situated at the Enterprise Development Centre of the Lagos Business School, said deployment and transfer of locally relevant climate technologies remain the best solution to climate change challenges. The Vice President, who was represented by the Senior Special Assistant to the Vice President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Laolu Akande, said the task of advancing climate action was crucial, especially for Nigeria, in the view of the challenge of climate change and the need for the adoption of an innovative approach.
According to him, one of the key sectors where there is potential for high impact interventions by green technologies is the off-grid solar sector. Osinbajo said the Solar Home Project and Energising Economies Initiative were some of the private-sector-driven efforts targeted at providing off-grid power to homes, markets and economic clusters across the country.
He said that so far, 13,000 shops at Sabon-Gari Market in Kano were currently being powered through high-capacity stand-alone solar systems. He said more were expected to come on stream soon at the Ariaria Market in Aba, Sura Market in Lagos, and other markets in Oyo, Edo and Ondo states.
As a climate change writer in Nigeria, I have discovered that worldwide, forest loss alone contributed to about 20 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions especially carbon that had contributed to global warming and climate change.
According to United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Nigeria 2016 Annual report, different human activities were responsible for the changing global climate especially the rise of carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere mainly due to reduced sinks (forests).
Further findings indicate that Nigeria’s forest cover reduced from 16 per cent in 2000 to 11 per cent in 2014, while areas covered by farmland increased from 25 per cent to 30 per cent in the same period. To this end, experts who spoke to me in an interview chat revealed that massive tree planting was the surest way to militate the dangers associated with climate change.
The Country Director, Onuesoke Foundation (climate change organization), Chief Sunny Onuesoke, who is also a onetime Delta state PDP governorship aspirant, stated that the importance of trees in stabilising the climate should not be substituted if the federal government was keen on actualising the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and Paris Agreement of limiting global warming to less than 2 degrees centigrade.
He emphasised that deforestation, land degradation and land use change accounts for over 12 per cent of the entire Greenhouse Gas (GhG) emissions on the planet. Onuesoke said that an increase in climate change would lead to massive land degradation and deforestation. He asserted that forests would play a critical role in helping countries meet their NDCs so as to sustain the fight against climate change.
The environmental activist further hinted that rising temperatures made forests drier, more susceptible to fires, and vulnerable to pests and diseases. He quoted the recent WWF Living Forest report as saying that failure to address climate change issues now could lead to the destruction of 170 million hectares of forest as well as loss of biodiversity and livelihood by 2030.
Onuesoke stated that climate scientists were optimistic that investment in forests and trees has the potential to reduce poverty, drive sustainable development and provide vital local and global environmental services for the planet.
According to him, “It always pays to begin any climate change discussion with the fact that the issue at hand is a complex problem that will require large numbers of people working at different levels for an extended period of time.”
He listed the institutions that should actively engage in climate change talks as non-governmental organisations, civil society organisations, private sectors, individuals and government. He stated that the essence of activism was to draw the attention of policy makers and publics on the need to prioritise environmental issues through sound legislative policies.
Onuesoke’s foundation, it could been recalled organised Tree planting sensitization programs in rural areas, and also participated in planting of trees in public and private schools, stressing that the organisations was the champion to the campaign against deforestation without afforestation.
Mr. Raymond Utuedhe
A Public commentator and Journalist, writes from Delta State.