By Salmat Abdulwaheed and Gideon Ojigi
Climate change remains a serious development threat to the present generation with dreadful impact manifesting disproportionately across globe.
Nigeria as a developing country with a population of about 190 million is likely to be adversely affected by the impact of climate change giving its vulnerability and low response capability.
Realising the significance and inevitability of the environment for survival of man, environmental experts have been arguing boisterously that without the environment man cannot exist since human activities are made possible by the existence of his environment.
While climate change constitutes environmental threat of the 21st century, the current experience alongside its adversity has left nations to seek immediate measures to adapt and mitigate impact.
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) defines ‘climate change as a change which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere over comparable time periods’.
Around the globe seasons are shifting, temperatures are increasing and sea level is rising. Climate change affects the whole world, though the vulnerable groups who contribute least to the process suffer most from the impact.
Scientific research shows that the net climate resulting from the change will largely be driven by atmospheric greenhouse gases.
Climate change is principally a major problem caused by the increase of human activities popularly regarded as human mismanagement of the earth leading to several direct and indirect impacts on health and agriculture activities. The changes manifest as excessive heat related mortality, dehydration, spread of infectious diseases, malnutrition, damage to infrastructural facilities, and forceful ejection of both man and animals.
In a recent report, Institute for Public Policy Analysis and Management (IPPAM) reveals that by 2020, Nigeria stands to lose 11 per cent of GDP to climate change in absence of an aggressive climate policy to sustain the social and economic development in the country.
Climate change will negatively affect Nigerian economy with various observable impacts ranging from significant reduction in agricultural productivity to increase in illness, morbidity and mortality rate. The energy sector has not also be left out because climate change has impacted the hydropower plants which are source of electricity for the country.
Many other sectors like the transportation, tourism and manufacturing sectors are affected which in turn pose threat to the overall economy.
Another study conducted by Department for International development (DFID) confirms that climate change will cost Nigeria between 6 and 30 percent of its GDP by 2050 with estimated between $100billion and $460 billion.
Currently, the erosion of low-lying coastal and non-coastal regions of Nigeria results in persistent buildings collapse with attendant loss of lives. Of important concern also are the drying lakes in Nigeria, with the drying Lake Chad, which is at the junction of Chad, Cameroon, Nigeria and Niger as a valid reference point.
Andrew Bamford, a British investigative journalist, on 14th April, 2006, reported less than 500 square miles of water in Lake Chad due to global warming. The consequences of the drying of these lakes include loss of means of livelihood of citizens that borders these lakes, who depend on it for farming, fishing, drinking and animal husbandry, as well as unrest and forced migration which places burden on the new location they are relocating to.
Another very important effect of climate change in Nigeria is the declining soil carrying capacity and heat related problems on humans, crops and livestock. Due to deforestation, trees which should serve as cover for soil against the harsh sunshine, are felled indiscriminately, thereby, exposing soils and reducing soils productive capacity, and creating problems for agriculture in Nigeria. Heat-related incidents are on the rise, as well as heat stress (hyperthermia) on both crops and livestock, because of increasing greenhouse gas emissions, leading to high losses in crop and livestock production.
Nigeria is highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and must, therefore as a matter of urgency take steps to in reducing vulnerability, building resilience and adaptive capacity.
The Africa Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources in Africa was introduced to enhance environmental protection in member states of the African Union. It recognises that the natural environment of Africa and the natural resources with which Africa is endowed are an irreplaceable part of the African Heritage and constitute a capital of vital importance to the continent and humankind as a whole.
The Convention acknowledges the crucial role of natural resources in human development and the need for effective environmental governance to prevent over exploitation and the application of harmful substances and technology in the exploitation of natural resources.
The Revised African Union Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources speaks directly to the environmental crisis in Nigeria. There are policies, programmes as well as regulatory agencies dealing with these matters which are already in existence at the national, state and local government levels.
Despite its significance to enhance environmental protection, Nigeria is yet to ratify the Revised African Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, 2003 as reveals by Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) in ‘2015 Country Report on Nigeria’s Compliance with African Union Standards’ published under the aegis of State of the Union (SOTU). Relevant Ministries including Agriculture, Environment; Water Resources; Land, Housing and Urban Development must intensify advocacy in support of the ratification, domestication and implementation processes to ensure sustainable development in the country.
All arms of government should ensure policies that support the use of more clean, renewable energy, rather than the heavy investments in coal-based energy, which has not helped the economy, as irregular inconsistent power supply still persists across the country, with several businesses paralysed.
The National Assembly should enhance its oversight functions on conservation and environmental issues. The performance of its oversight function should not only be on basis of national legislation but also in the context of the domesticated continental instruments.
Nigeria is a federal state and issues of conservation of nature and natural resources and environment are concurrent matters. State government therefore must ensure relevant agencies at the state levels responsible for environmental issues and conservation should pay attention to continental standards set at the level of the African Union and strive to bring their policies and practices in line with these. Local governments in Nigeria should be more alive to their responsibility in terms of waste management. This is an area in which they are generally very lax, especially in the urban areas where there is general crisis of waste management.
Various regulatory agencies have been created and charged with specific responsibilities on issues of natural resources conservation and environment. These regulatory agencies must be made to understand that there are standards of operation that go beyond the national standards. These Standards which have in any case become domesticated must be the yardstick for measuring their performance.
Adopting improved agricultural systems for both crops and livestock For example, diversify livestock and improve range management; increase access to drought resistant crops and livestock feeds; adopt better soil management practices; and provide early warning/meteorological forecasts and related information. The agricultural and Research institution should commence research into crops that are resistant to drought and heat.
The River basin Authority should commence design and construction of new water projects for drought management and irrigation farming. Protection of existing natural barriers, building of sea walls and dune reinforcement. The use of low cost solar energy cookers instead of wood burning devices which cause deforestation should be encouraged. Terrestrial and marine ecosystems that act as carbon sink reservoir to greenhouse gases should be protected and sustained by reducing bush burning and increasing afforestation with appropriate sanctions against bush burning activities.
Oil spillage and gas flaring in the coastal regions should be addressed to protect carbon and ozone layers. Realignment, relocation and design of standards and planning for roads, rail and other infrastructure are paramount to cope with warming and drainage effects.
Government and relevant stakeholders should extensively fund research in climate change in tertiary institutions and other research institutes across the nation. Efficient database management system on climate change occurrence and related events should be developed, in order to ensure effective and timely response to climate change incidents in Nigeria.
The Civil Society Organisation should ensure citizen engagement in achieving the incorporation of climate risks, the role of disaster risk reduction in climate adaptation strategies. The government should include CSOs in decision making regarding climate change adaptation.
The Civil Society should persuade both the executive and legislative arms of government to ratify and domesticate the revised convention.
They should create a platform for monitoring key performance indicators in the convention and making periodic reports on this as a form of independent oversight role in the implementation of the convention in Nigeria.
Finally, indiscriminate bush burning receives little or no thought and yet damage the soil, plants, animals and general ecological balance is immense. Unregulated hunting of wild animals for food has led to the extinction of many species and those remaining are facing the same faith if nothing is done to rescue them. Even more worrisome is a general hostility to anything wild that seem to immediately provoke an extermination mentality, even when no threat is visible. This mental frame ought to change and the civil society should collaborate with the relevant public authorities engage for this change in mentalities through public enlightenment.