By Musa Ilallah
By way of introducing this piece, please allow me borrow former US President Barack Obama’s words: “Climate change is a potential existential threat to the entire world if we don’t do something about it.“
The History of the climate change conferences, COPs dates back to 1992 when the first conference was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil aimed at uniting all the country signatories to UN Climate Change Conference, UNFCCC. In the early 1990s, debates about how to limit emissions of gases that cause the greenhouse effect of which CO2 is the most, resulting in a clear-cut distinction between industrialized countries, responsible for most emissions over the years and developing countries who suffer the worst consequences of global warming.
Organized by World Health Organization, WHO and Global Climate and Health Alliance, GCHA in collaboration with Glasgow Caledonian University and its Centre for Climate Justice, UK Health Alliance on Climate Change and other partners, COP 26 of 2021, brought together key actors in public health and climate change policy in order to incorporate public health and climate justice considerations into the UN climate negotiations.
The Conference included sessions on health co benefits of a broad range of climate policies including clean energy policies; air quality measures; subsidy reform; smart agriculture and sustainable food systems; educational and civil society involvement and nature-based solutions among others.
In his address at this year’s conference held virtually, President Muhammadu Buhari assured the global community of Nigeria’s readiness to support global multilateral processes for the attainment of the objectives of the Paris Agreement on climate change. He further stated that the fight to redress the impact is the responsibility of all countries and stakeholders.
In the words of President Buhari: “The issue of climate change has taken the front burner globally, as its effects can be seen and felt all around us ranging from increased atmospheric temperature to irregular rainfall patterns as well as sea level rise owing to the melting of glacial ice.
President Buhari further stated that the summit would prove instrumental in galvanising high-level political support for the implementation of the Paris Agreement and its Katowice Rulebook as well as inviting more countries and stakeholders to take more climate-oriented responsibilities.
It is heartwarming to note that President Buhari does not shy away from showcasing Nigeria in real terms to the world leaders that Nigeria was one of the most vulnerable nations, and it had started undertaking major environmentally sound and climate-friendly programmes, while treading the path of sustainability.
However, questions Nigerians keep asking include how the country can adapt to the effects of climate change among others.
It is on record, according to the Food and Agricultural Organisation, FAO that consecutive climate shocks have resulted in droughts across Africa.
As at the end of 2018, the number of internally displaced people in Nigeria was over 2 million. While Boko Haram was responsible for an additional 541,000 in 2018, extreme weather conditions displaced 613,000 individuals.
Presently, the number of displaced persons in the country has increased many folds due to banditry, kidnappings, etc resulting in displacement of communities since 2018. Worst hit states are Niger, Zamfara, Sokoto and Kaduna.
In the south, rising sea levels have pushed back the shoreline forcing thousands of people to move inland, looking for new places to call home.
In the north, hundreds of thousands of people have abandoned their hometowns due to inconsistent rainfall, food insecurity, and climate-related conflict between herders and farmers.
As global climate conditions worsen, the geographical landscape of the country is changing. It is becoming increasingly difficult for the environment to provide sustenance and for individuals and communities to protect themselves and adapt to the realities of climate change.
While climate change affects everybody, the poor in Nigeria are most vulnerable as 70% of its population depends on agriculture for their basic needs and income. This is one of the areas that climate change impacts the most.
For example, without appropriate rainfall, a subsistence farmer loses most of his yield; cannot fend for his family; children, most likely girls might have to leave school; and the poverty cycle continues. How then, can we cope with this spiraling effect of climate change?
It is therefore not disputable that our generation’s capacity to adapt depends on economic wealth, technology, information and skills, infrastructure, state institutions and equity.
Consequently, adaptation is therefore about resilience. Unfortunately, resilience becomes difficult when a community is marginalized, disenfranchised or lacks information about their current situation. This is why Nigeria is one of the country’s most vulnerable to climate change in the world.
On the other hand, climate change adaptation is an urgent issue we can address. Even if global warming and greenhouse emissions stop today, the world has and will continue changing. The extent to which these changes will affect lives will depend on how well people and systems are able to adapt.
Against this background, it is therefore necessary to start articulating roles that individuals and communities can play towards improving Nigeria’s capacity to reduce the impact of climate change.
However, there are two Coping down to earth, workable and realistic approaches to coping with the negatives of climate change namely Climate change mitigation and adaptation.
While mitigation is about reducing the causes of climate change, for example global warming and greenhouse gas emissions, adaptation on the other hand is about addressing the impact of climate change,
Most of Nigeria’s greenhouse emissions come from the industrial sector. The culprits? Agriculture and forestry, waste, and energy. However, while being the second-largest greenhouse emitter in Africa, Nigeria only accounts for 0.7% of the world’s greenhouse gases. So, climate change mitigation is important but not a pressing priority in Nigeria.
For example, in cases where floods and droughts lead to malnutrition and starvation, access to effective healthcare and technology become Lifesavers. Hospitals, sanitation facilities, and laboratories need to be efficient and equipped with knowledgeable and skilled professionals to manage these risks.
However, the vulnerability of Nigeria’s systems and weak institutions forces one to consider other avenues such as paying attention to ecosystem services. These are direct and indirect contributions of the environment including services such as food, fresh water, soil formation and retention, oxygen production, and climate regulation. Although these services are affected by climate change, we must realize that they are also part of the solution.
As important as the elements of the ecosystem are to our survival, a huge chunk of it is threatened due to an inability to manage services at an individual level.
Water Pollution is a significant challenge. Only 19% of the Nigerian population has access to safe drinking water. Some of the causes are toxic cleaning products, oil spills, poor waste management, fertilizer and pesticide runoff, industrial waste, and mining. Spread of water-borne/water-related diseases like typhoid, cholera, malaria, yellow fever are inevitable in a country plagued with water pollution levels as challenging as Nigeria’s.
To help proper waste disposal at the individual, household, community, and industrial level is needed to prevent pollution of local bodies of water. Waste producing industries need to engage in sustainable practices that prevent and clean up industrial pollution.
Individuals and businesses can also offer their widow’s mite by reducing inorganic foods, and using more natural ingredients for household cleaning and self-care products. This requires education on what toxins are dangerous to the environment and avoiding them in the products we use.
Deforestation and desertification are also serious threats to climate change adaptation in Nigeria resulting to the loss of forests and dry lands becoming barren deserts.
Nigeria has lost over half of its forests. Additionally, 60% of Nigerian land has been affected by desertification. The primary cause of the current deadly conflicts between herdsmen and farmers is due to this loss of viable land, pushing northern herdsmen towards the south.
Deforestation and desertification occur from activities such as extensive cultivation, overgrazing, cultivation of marginal land, and urbanization.
Because forests are critical for providing clean water, conserving biodiversity and responding to climate change and planting trees are some helpful actions to take. Policy-wise, to successfully sustain our ecosystem services, we need both local engagement and macro policy that tackle environmental issues.
The Nigeria Erosion and Watershed Management Project launched with the help of the World Bank has come in handy and is focusing attention on erosion, capacity building and alternative energy in rural areas.
Other measures also include implementing restoration initiatives and also providing grants for community-led projects thus resulting in rehabilitation of over thousands of hectares of degraded land with thousands of people lifted out of poverty by the PMB administration.
The creation of the Green Climate Fund, whose aim is to support developing countries in adapting to climate change through projects and national planning in the medium-term has the potential of addressing issues of climate change adaptation in the world. The fund was supposed to provide 100 billion dollars a year in funding up to 2020.
As a foot soldier in Disaster management with more than 10 years experience, one can confidently say that there is so much to do in Nigeria in terms of our capacity of both human and material resources to deal with the complexities of climate change mitigation and adaptation.
The impact of climate change in Nigeria is huge. The drying up of Lake Chad to 10 percent of its original size has caused undue hardship to the lives in that region. It has adversely affected lives and livelihoods and increased the vulnerability of our young ones to restiveness and militancy.
Nigeria is losing about 5 kilometers a year to desertification causing forced migration, loss of farmlands, and untold hardship to communities and families. Women and children are most impacted by this hardship.
Chief Executive Officer, Ecologistics Integrated Services Ltd. and African Climate Clock Initiative, ACCI Dr. Paul Abolo at the presentation of climate clock to the Minister of Women Affairs, Dame Pauline Tallen noted that the presentation is a Strategic approach to creating awareness for climate action.
He said, “The climate clock happens to be one of those strategies through which we need to draw awareness, sensitization, about climate action. However, we have decided in Nigeria that the presentation of the climate clock has to go through a strategic approach.
It is therefore not in doubt that PMB and his administration are doing their best to squarely, tactically and with a fashion continue to strategize to deal with issues of climate change mitigation and adaptation. Corporate companies and individual Nigerians must support the President to avert further consequences of climate change in the country.
Musa Ilallah Emeka Anyaoku Street Abuja Email: firstname.lastname@example.org