World Earth Day/Climate Change – Whither Africa, Whither Nigeria?

The 22nd of April every year is set aside to mark World Earth Day, and yesterday was no different.

The day marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970. Several agencies and governments organise special events to spread awareness among the people about Climate Change and Global Warming.

This year marks the 51st Earth Day celebrations across the globe with the theme, “Restore Our Earth”. The theme is aimed at focusing on natural processes, emerging green technologies and innovative thinking that can restore the world’s ecosystems.

Global warming and climate change continue to be the focal point of discussion and people across the globe, including Nigeria, took part in activities to raise awareness about critical issues impacting planet the Earth.

Several topics featured in the discussions held in different countries, including Climate and Environmental Literacy, Climate Restoration Technologies, Reforestation Efforts and Regenerative Agriculture. Others were Equity and Environmental Justice, Citizen Science as well as Cleanups.

The clear direction for the topics is that a clean environment Is essential for healthy living and the more people do not care about the environment, the more it will become polluted with contaminants and toxins that have a harmful impact on health. In addition, air pollution can cause respiratory diseases and cancer, among other problems and diseases.

The focus of yesterday’s observation of World Earth Day was also to focus on the increasing climate change, which many countries have taken much more seriously than others, especially in Africa.

The Top Causes of Global Warming are:

  1. Power Plants. Carbon dioxide emissions stem from electricity production.
  2. Transportation. Emissions come from the transportation of people and goods.
  3. Farming
  4. Deforestation.
  5. Fertilizers.
  6. Oil Drilling.
  7. Natural Gas Drilling.
  8. Permafrost.

Human health is vulnerable to climate change. The changing environment is expected to cause more heat stress, an increase in waterborne diseases, poor air quality, and diseases transmitted by insects and rodents. Extreme weather events can compound many of these health threats.

The Arctic, Africa, small islands and Asia are regions that are likely to be especially affected by future Climate Change. Africa is one of the most vulnerable continents to climate variability and change because of multiple existing stresses and low adaptive capacity.

Climate Change will increasingly impact Africa due to many factors. These impacts are already being felt and will increase in magnitude if action is not taken to reduce global carbon emissions. The impacts include higher temperatures, drought, changing rainfall patterns, and increased climate variability.

Increases in temperature and changes in rainfall patterns also significantly affect population health across Africa. Warmer temperatures and higher rainfall is said to increase habitat suitability for biting insects and the transmission of vector-borne diseases such as dengue fever, malaria and yellow fever.

 

Africa is one of the most vulnerable continents to climate change and climate variability, a situation aggravated by the interaction of ‘multiple stresses’, occurring at various levels, and low adaptive capacity.

For Nigeria, there is no doubt that the climate has been changing, as evident in increases in temperature; variable rainfall; rise in sea level and flooding; drought and desertification; land degradation; more frequent extreme weather events; affected fresh water resources and loss of biodiversity.

Nigeria has a tropical climate with variable rainy and dry seasons, depending on location. It is hot and wet most of the year in the south-east but dry in the south-west and farther inland. In the south the rainy season lasts from March to November, whereas in the far north it lasts only from mid-May to September.

Nigeria still practices rain fed agriculture which renders her vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change. Extreme climatic events such as flooding, extreme heat, and drought has led to soil degradation which results in low crop yields.

Rainfall variation is projected to continue to increase. Precipitation in southern areas is expected to rise and rising sea levels are expected to exacerbate flooding and submersion of coastal lands. Droughts have also become a constant in Nigeria, and are expected to continue in Northern Nigeria, arising from a decline in precipitation and rise in temperature. Lake Chad and other lakes in the country are drying up and at risk of disappearing.

Temperature has risen significantly since the 1980s. Climate projections for the coming decades reveal a significant increase in temperature over all the ecological zones. This rapid review synthesises evidence on the impact of climate change in Nigeria (geographic, sectoral, demographic and security impacts) and responses to address it.

The emission of greenhouse gases from gas flaring, open burning, vehicle emissions, deforestation, and use of solid fossil fuel for cooking are some of the causes of climate change in Nigeria. Nigeria is still practicing rain fed agriculture which renders her vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change. Extreme climatic events such as flooding, extreme heat, and drought has led to soil degradation which results in low crop yields. Decline in agricultural productivity discourages the farmers and may lead to change in livelihood especially in the rural settings. This can also lead to migration from rural to urban regions thereby affecting development of rural regions in the country.

A lot of noise is made annually by the various levels of government in Nigeria and some even make token but publicized efforts at planting trees as replacement for those felled. These are hardly enough and they are mostly political to attract unnecessary publicity. There is still massive deforestation and illegal felling of trees, poaching of animals, and illegal occupation of forest reserves by bandits who also fell and burn down trees.

But the greatest ignored area is carbon emission. There is almost no legal provision or implementation in place to curb emissions from cars and other vehicles, power generators, charcoal cooking and gas flaring. Every once in a while, some noise is made about the need to curb carbon emission in the urban areas but there has not been seriousness about it.

This is a far cry of what is happening in Europe and North America.

For instance, in the lead up to Earth Day, the European Commission on Wednesday 21st April, endorsed a provisional agreement between the co-legislators on the European Climate Law.

As one of the key elements of the European Green Deal, the European Climate Law enshrines the EU’s commitment to reaching climate neutrality by 2050 and the intermediate target of reducing net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels.

In addition to the 2050 climate neutrality target, the deal strengthens the European framework for climate action by introducing the following elements:

  • An ambitious 2030 climate target of at least 55% reduction of net emissions as compared to 1990, with clarity on the contribution of emission reductions and removals;
  • Recognition of the need to enhance the EU’s carbon sink through a more ambitious LULUCF regulation, for which the Commission will make proposals in June 2021;
  • A process for setting a 2040 climate target, taking into account an indicative greenhouse gas budget for 2030-2050 to be published by the Commission;
  • A commitment to negative emissions after 2050;
  • The establishment of European Scientific Advisory Board on Climate Change, that will provide independent scientific advice;
  • Stronger provisions on adaptation to climate change;
  • Strong coherence across Union policies with the climate neutrality objective;
  • A commitment to engage with sectors to prepare sector-specific roadmaps charting the path to climate neutrality in different areas of the economy.

The European tabled its proposal for a European Climate Law on 4th March 2020. Once the new provisional agreement is formally approved by the European Parliament and Council, the European Climate Law will be published in the Official Journal of the Union and will enter into force.

These are the kind of resolutions and enabling agreements that continents like Africa should be seeking to put in place because the continent cannot behave like an ostrich on Climate Change. Granted that countries in Africa, including Nigeria have numerous weighty problems like their politics, economy, pandemic, terrorism, poverty, unemployment and banditry and they are wont to think that Climate Change is a far away problem. However, this will be a grievous mistake and the climate can wreck untold havoc that will be difficult to deal with, if plans are not put in place now to prevent the coming danger.

 

IMAGE CREDIT: earthday.org,

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