A couple of days ago, Labour Party’s presidential candidate, Peter Obi responded to a question on climate change in Nigeria. His response, spiked conversations on Twitter as people picked sides and a debate started on whether Nigeria should be worrying about climate change right now amidst its various other problems. Really, should Nigeria be concerned about climate change when it has an unemployment rate estimated to reach 33% in 2022 and about 20 million children out of school?
What is Climate Change?
According to the United Nations, climate change refers to long-term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns. These shifts may be natural, such as through variations in the solar cycle. But since the 1800s, human activities have been a main driver of climate change.
In layman’s terms, this means climate change is when there is a long-term change in the normal temperature of a place such that it is not what it used to be. However, rather than this change occurring naturally and at a steady pace, human activities are forcing it to occur at a faster pace. Therefore, Earth is becoming warmer than it used to be.
The lead cause of this change is human activities. Activities like burning fossil fuels, for example, coal, oil and gas are generating greenhouse gas emissions. These emissions then act like a blanket wrapped around the Earth, trapping the sun’s heat and raising temperatures.
Almost all of man’s daily activities cause this emission. The use of gasoline for driving a car, coal for heating, clearing of land and forests for roads, housing and industries are only a few examples.
Why are People Across the World Worried About Climate Change?
Is it a bad thing that the earth is getting warmer? Maybe not. However, the consequences of this change in climate is a bad thing. As climate changes, consequences such as intense droughts, water scarcity, severe fires, rising sea levels, flooding, melting polar ice, catastrophic storms, and declining biodiversity accompany it. As a result of these, people are experiencing climate change in different forms. It is affecting life, means of livelihood, health and wellbeing, housing, education, safety and work, and practically every other thing you can think of. Why? Because Earth is a system, where everything is connected and changes in one area can influence changes in all others.
Where are we on Climate Change?
Currently, Earth is at its warmest level. It is currently 1.1oC warmer than it used to be in the late 1800s. This means Earth has never been as warm as it is in the last decade (2011-2020). Yet, if the emissions continue to happen at the current rate, global warming is expected to reach around 3.2oC by the end of the century. That is, Earth will get even warmer, and that is bad.
Image Source: Data: NASA GISS; Graphic: Harry Stevens/Axios
Currently, the United Nations and other organizations are working with world leaders to see that everyone lowers their emission and all that could be contributing to climate change in their country. That is why we have frameworks and agreements like Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) and the Paris Agreement. They all focus on how emissions will be cut down, how we can adapt to climate impacts and how the required adjustments will be financed.
For the SDGs, Goal 7- affordable and clean energy, Goal 9-industry, innovation and infrastructure, Goal 11- sustainable cities and communities, Goal 12- Responsible Consumption and Production and Goal 13- Climate action, are only few of the goals set to address climate change. The UNFCC is where environmental problems are recognized and addressed, and the Paris agreement is a legal agreement signed by world leaders to limit global warming.
On Climate Change and Risk in Nigeria
Nigeria’s overall climate risk and vulnerability can be deducted from the interactions of climate-related hazards with the vulnerability of susceptible communities and exposure of human and natural systems. So how much is Nigeria contributing to global warming and how severe is the effect in Nigeria?
Looking at data from the World Bank, as of 2019, carbon emission in Nigeria was reported at 1152380 kilotonnes, and the metric tons of this per capita is 0.57364. This is considered low when compared to countries like China, Russia, United States, Japan and others producing up to 7 metric tons of carbon per capita.
Although our production is low, Nigeria is not spared from the effect of climate change. As previously established, consequences of climate change include intense droughts, water scarcity, severe fires, rising sea levels, flooding etc. Today, Nigeria is battling one of its worst floods in years, and over 300 people have been killed in 2022 with at least 20 weekly, and half a million people displaced.
Although many of Nigeria’s floods are a result of non-implementation of environmental guidelines and inadequate infrastructure, The Guardian reported that authorities are currently blaming the floods this year on water overflowing from local rivers, unusual rainfalls and the release of excess water from the Lagdo dam in neighboring Cameroon’s northern region. Already, an alert has been issued as the situation is expected to worsen for some states and communities.
While the cause of the recent floods could majorly be blamed on the poor infrastructure of roads, drainage and waste disposal, Akintunde Babatunde, a climate analyst shared that the unusual rainfall is evidence of climate change.
Flooding and sea level rising is top on the list of the consequences of climate change suffered in Nigeria. They affect agriculture, health, infrastructure and economy as the flooding impacts agriculture, human health, settlements and more.
Furthermore, as the climate continues to change, droughts are projected to become even more severe in Nigeria’s future. Of course, persistent droughts have the possibility of causing crop failures, loss of livestock, and famines. Already, desertification is moving southward.
In effort, Nigeria is known to often make efforts and commitments to tackle the impact of climate change. Nigeria signed the Paris Agreement in 2017 and has committed to cutting carbon emissions by 20 percent or conditionally by 45 percent with international support in 2030. It has also developed policies and strategies as part of climate action, such as the 2011 national adaptation strategy and Vision 20:2020, and a few others.
Nonetheless, there is still a need for increased effort and intervention from the government, individuals, and agencies to reduce deforestation, gas flaring and charcoal use.
According to an article based on a case study by Xu et al (2020), it was predicted that virtually all of Nigeria will become too hot to live in by 2070.
While Nigeria is not top on the list of countries producing the most CO2 and contributing to climate change because it is a developing country, there are fewer resources and weaker infrastructure to cushion the effect of climate change, hence, Nigeria is at risk.