The global climate is warming due to increasing greenhouse gases occasioned by the use of fossil fuel. This phenomenon has been further confirmed by a new study carried out by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA), alerting that we are getting into the period of accelerated rate of increase in global surface temperature. The effects of this change are numerous ranging from, dust storms, tropical storms, hurricanes, tornadoes to wildfires, droughts, heat waves and floods. A recent report by the World Bank has warned of the dire consequences of a 4 degrees warmer world which would plunge the world into “unprecedented heat waves, severe drought, and major floods”, hence a call to action to avoid this and keep warming likely below 2 degrees. However, even at a world where warming is kept below 2 degrees, developing countries are still more vulnerable to impacts of climate change due to their low social, technological and financial adaptive capacity. In addition to that are their evolving institutional frameworks and the interaction of other ‘multiple stresses’ like pollution, deforestation and a growing population.
Currently at 0.69°C increase above the long-term average for the 20th century, making 2014 the hottest year ever recorded, the impacts of climate change are being felt globally, from flash floods in the US to heat waves in India. While more developed countries can weather these impacts as shown in the recorded fatalities, the circumstances is entirely different in developing countries. For example, fatalities recorded in 2014 and 2015 US flash floods were between 3 and 19, while countries like Malawi in 2015 recorded above 170, Afghanistan in 2014 recorded 73-200, and recently in Ghana over a 100. In addition, over 2,500 people died in the severe heat wave that recently struck India.
In Nigeria we have also had our share of climate change impacts as experienced in the 2012 floods that killed over 300 people and displaced over 2.1 million people. Another impact is deforestation which according to researchers is occurring at an alarming rate of 3.5% annually, resulting in an estimated financial loss of US$750 million annually at 1989 prices. This is occasioned by loss of grazing land leading to farmers and herdsmen abandoning their homes, which often result in deadly conflict between agricultural farmers and herdsmen. The Federal Ministry of Environment warns that if depletion continues with no abatement measures in place, it is estimated that the remaining forest, majority of which is located in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, would likely disappear by 2020. Additionally, the Department for International Development (DFID) has alerted of the possible sea level rise to 0.3 m by 2020 and 1m by 2050, which would result in the loss of 75% of the Niger Delta, leading to the displacement of approximately 3.7 million people. Research has also shown that in Northern Nigeria, there is the encroachment of desert land estimated at 0.6 km annually, due to rainfall decrease and long-term temperature increase. This decrease in rainfall and increased long-term temperature, coupled with population pressure has also led to the shrinking of one of the largest lakes in the world, Lake Chad, which is estimated to disappear in about 20 years from now.
Furthermore, DFID has affirmed that if climate change adaptation measures are not put into action soon, Nigeria could lose between 2% and 11% of its GDP by 2020, which could rise to between 6% and 30% by the year 2050. This is estimated to be between N15 trillion (US$100 billion) and N69 trillion (US$460 billion). Another calamitous effect is the resulting number of refugees that can arise from both the environmental impacts and climate change related conflicts. It is important to note that, currently in the world today, the number of environmental refugees is far more than the combination of both political and war refugees.
With all this overwhelming evidence that portends danger to our core existence, coupled with the low social, technological and financial adaptive capacity of our beloved country……the obvious question is “HOW PREPARED IS NIGERIA?”