Olumide Idow is a climate change activist from Nigeria who founded the environmentalist action group Climate Wednesday. In this post for our#CoolerPlanet series, he explores what impact climate change could have on Nigeria – as well as the impacts it is already having.
Climate change has become a new reality and a worldwide phenomenon, but what is climate change? What impact could it have on Nigeria? And how can we mitigate any negative impacts to ensure that climate change does not have disastrous consequences on Nigeria? Giving answers to these questions are at best guesstimates as no one can be definitive about them, but we still need to start thinking about them today to find answers to tomorrow’s challenges.
What then is climate change? This can be looked at as the continuing change of the earth’s climate, which, in time past, was seen to be caused by natural causes. However, the term ‘climate change’ today is generally used when referring to the change in our climate which has been observed since the early part of the 20th century.
The changes that are seen over recent years, and those that are predicted over the next century, are thought mainly to be due to human behaviour rather than due to natural changes in the atmosphere. What causes this change cannot be treated in isolation, we must also look at the greenhouse effect. This is caused by the release of destructive gases by human action, which in turn brings about the warming of the earth surface by increasing the earth’s temperature. The increase in temperature then causes the melting of ice, which contributes to rises in sea levels among other disastrous consequences.
So, what about the impact on Nigeria from this? In this regard an example may suffice. According to a report compiled in 2010, investigations revealed that over 200 people were killed by meningitis in Nigeria and Niger Republic in one week. There were outbreaks in 76 areas. There were 25,000 suspected cases and 1, 500 deaths in the first quarter of 2009. Although meningitis is a disease caused by an infection of the meanings, which is the thin lining that surrounds the brain and the spinal cord, experts have found a correlation between the weather and this disease.
It is generally known that the disease attacks more people during the dry season because of dust, wind and cold nights. There were indications in the past one month that many people were treated for acute pneumonia in some hospitals as a result of the erratic and unpredictable weather which has also confused farmers about planting seasons raising fear about food production and security.
Apart from the reign of diseases as a result of harsh weather conditions in Northern Nigeria, agriculture has been affected as a result of erratic weather patterns. The dryness has led to dry waterbeds and movement of people and their pasture to the southern regions thus causing tension and conflicts between the original inhabitants and the newcomers. Experts at the United Nations and other global bodies have found over the years that the world’s climate has changed.
The drought of the 1970s that swept most of the Sahel region of Africa left the region, including Nigeria, with general water resources issues. The consequence of that are the low agricultural output, limited water supply and inadequate water reserve for power generation, which the region is associated with. Again the increasing flooding in the coastal and non-coastal regions of the country is indicative of the expected effect of climate change.
There are two extremes of the expected challenges of the climate change in Nigeria: an increase in rainy and dry seasons, with each lasting approximately six months on the average (April to October and October to March).
Nigeria’s daily temperature averages differ according to location and period of the year. Average temperature ranges from 25oC in the southern coast to 40oC in the north. A rise in temperature of between 1.4oC to 5.8oC by 2100 according to Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, will have serious negative effect on the socio-economic wellbeing of the country in the following ways:
Increase in amount of rains and number of rainy day-flooding in the coastal areas
Higher risk of 100 years flooding occurring at shorter intervals;
Deforestation as a result of relocating of people from the flood affected areas of the coast;
Change in land use in the coast may have drastic effect on agricultural output and hence livelihood;
Desertification will increase and more droughts which encourage locusts and white flies, which in turn will affect food and water supply;
Wildlife will also be affected with possible effect on the entire food chain.
Landslides especially in erosion prone areas;
high temperature in the north will cause increase health issues such as meningitis, cataracts, malaria and yellow fever etc
High cost of construction especially in the coastal areas;
In light of this, I have been doing my part to tackle the effects of climate change. Listed below are some of the things have been doing alongside with other organizations.
I run an online program to enlighten both young and older citizens in Nigeria on Climate Justice, helping them to understand what they need to do with each other to make the environment a better place to be. This initiative is called Climate Wednesday and it seeks to identify key climate based issues affecting development specifically in Nigeria, and Africa overall. It looks at the issue of climate, thinking locally, then acting globally. This way, we are able to imbibe our local realities and present them on the table of global action steps towards mitigating effects of climate change.
I also organised an enlightenment campaign, came up with a mitigation strategy and advocated for policy. With these programmes and initiatives, we have been able to call on the government to be part of the change we want to see in Nigeria. I will finish by saying if we don’t put all this in mind, then what will our future be?
“Climate change in Nigeria is a ticking time bomb and it exists little or even nothing to mitigate its effects.” Nnimmo Bassey, Nigeria.