When there is flooding, hurricane, earthquake or any natural disaster, the screaming headlines on the pages of newspapers or the breaking news on television are: ‘This is the heaviest rainfall in decades’, ‘today is the hottest day in history’ and this is the most severe earthquake ever experienced in… The impact of climate change or global warming is felt daily.
Mother Nature has “slated a number of places to significantly shrink or disappear from the earth entirely by 2100 due to climate change, changing soil and sea levels, natural disasters and economic problems.” Some of these cities are Timbuktu-Mali, Banjul-The Gambia, Venice-Italy, and San Francisco-USA.
While industrialized nations are aggregating efforts to cut carbon emissions and check climate change, Africa which is most vulnerable is grappling and struggling to recognise the consequences of this phenomenon. Is Africa really to blame? Of course not. This is because Africa produce the least emissions in the world but will bear the catastrophic and devastating brunt of climate change.
In an article written by Dr Lars Thunell and published in the Guardian, the former World Bank head of Finance Corporation succinctly states “Across the continent (Africa), the agricultural sector still employs 65% of the labour force and most of the rural poor. The majority are dependent on rain-fed agriculture and rangeland, which are subject to the vagaries of the weather, so an increase in the frequency or severity of extreme weather events driven by climate change will result in increased of hunger in malnutrition in Africa’s most vulnerable populations.”
In Nigeria, climate change does not feature prominently in the agenda of the current government. The focus is on corruption, security and unemployment.
In fact, successive Nigerian government devoted a large chunk of their budget to defence, education and health while peanut is budgeted for environmental preservation and protection.
This simply reveals that the government is yet to fathom the need to counter the effects of climate change that is exacerbating natural disasters. The northern region of Nigeria is gradually being eaten by the Sahara desert, erosion is destroying Anambra, South East and increased flooding in Lagos have caused people to flee to highlands.
Lagos is worse affected as the commercial nerve centre of Nigeria. The amount of carbon monoxide released into the air is worrisome, thus, affecting the air we breathe in and the health of the average Lagosian.
Again, the government have failed to acknowledge this. This is one major challenge in the fight against climate change.
In the Niger Delta, the level of environmental degradation is deeply felt in the region-the water is polluted, farmlands are not arable and they cannot fish in their waters. The Niger Delta Human Development Report by the United Nations Development Programme ably described the dire social deprivation the region is experiencing due to the large deposits of crude oil on their land.
Fortunately, President Muhammad Buhari who came to power in a popular vote in March 2015 have kick-started the clean-up process of a very much neglected part of the Niger Delta-Ogoni land by naming members of the governing council, Board of Trustees and Project Management team of the Hydrocarbon Pollution Restoration Project (HYPREP). This is in line with the recommendation of the UNDP report.
Gas flaring-another negative campaign promoting climate change is happening with impunity in the region. The government at several times have set a deadline to end gas flaring but up till this moment the menace continues.
This is an opportunity for government and stakeholders to combat climate change and tackle this perceived lackadaisical attitude of government towards this unavoidable disaster. This does not mean that efforts are not been made but more have to be done.
In Lagos state, the 7th edition of the Lagos state climate change summit was held on April 21 to 24 2015. The three-day roundtable discussed the activities of the government in tackling climate change to include the Eko Atlantic Project, Shoreline protection of the Bar beach, the rehabilitation of drainage infrastructure, annual tree planting campaign, car horn-free campaign, greening programme and the passage of laws to protect the environment. The Lagos state government seems to be the only government to accept the gigantic impact of climate change.
Aside from the government, Olusanya Olukoya, a graduate of Mechanical Engineering from the University built the first an electric car which is eco-friendly. He and his team in a mechanical adventure that took a daring and painstaking one year were able to exhibit their work at the Julius Berger Hall of the University. The features of the car include a high voltage battery, 16-inch diameter tires, and tabular frame chassis with a speed limit of 15 kilometres.
Climate change is a herculean challenge to Nigeria and Africa and these is a rare opportunity to tackle it in order to avert monumental disaster. If Nigeria and Africa is serious about reversing the turbulent impact of climate change then efforts must be geared towards clean energy-Solar, Wind, reforestation and the emerging electric cars. This is the future and the future starts now!