By UZOMA Felix Izuma
In May 2023, the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO)’s Global Annual to Decadal Climate Update (2023-2027) projects that there is a 66 per cent likelihood that the annual average near-surface global temperature between 2023 and 2027 will be more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels for at least one year. In simple terms, this means that the world’s temperature between 2023 and 2027 is projected to rise to more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels for at least one year (between 2023 and 2027). This has the potential of trumping the 2015 Paris Convention’s projection of 2°C by 2050 should member states fail to stem the tide of increasing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
Why should this bother us?
The implications of these predictions are worth interrogating. But first, it is important to underscore what greenhouse gas is, its source(s), and its effects on the environment. There is no one-size-fits-all definition for greenhouse gas(s). However, according to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), greenhouse gas refers to any gas that absorbs infrared radiation in the atmosphere. Similarly, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines it as gases that trap heat in the atmosphere. In other words, greenhouse gases trap some of the energy trying to escape from the Earth thus retaining them in the atmosphere. This trapped heat causes changes in the Earth’s radiative balance, thus altering climate and weather patterns at global and regional scales. This progressive but gradual rise/heating up of the Earth’s surface temperature is generally referred to as global warming.
What are some of the effects of global warming and climate change?
Although interrelated and oftentimes mixed up, global warming and climate change are distinct in the sense that while climate change generally refers to a long-term change in the average weather patterns, global warming refers to the long-term (usually 30 years and above) heating of Earth’s surface due to anthropogenic activities. Similar definition is also provided in the definition section of the Nigerian Climate Change Act, 2021.
The impact of climate change and global warming on the human environment are plethora; from prolonged heatwaves everywhere and droughts; melting glaciers in the polar regions; rising sea levels leading to ocean surges in coastal zones; to increased flooding just to mention but a few. The impacts are devastating and are felt in water management, food security, health, and the environment. In some cases, sources of livelihood are wiped out, properties washed away, diseases spread rapidly, and deaths occur.
In 2021, the World Health Organisation projected that between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250,000 additional deaths per year, from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress. It went on to state that the direct damage costs to health (i.e. excluding costs in health-determining sectors such as agriculture and water and sanitation), are estimated to be between USD 2-4 billion/year by 2030. Expectedly and unfortunately, the WHO’s view is that areas with weak health infrastructure, especially developing countries will be the least able to cope without assistance to prepare and respond.
Climate change and global warming in Nigeria
In Nigeria, the effects of climate change and global warming are not lost on us. Some families are yet to recover from the 2012, 2016, and 2022 floods. There is even an alarming prediction of more floods in 2023. About 178 local government areas (LGAs) in 32 states of the Federation including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) are at risk of flooding if the predictions from the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NiMet) and the Nigeria Hydrological Services (NHIS) are anything to go by. What proactive steps have been and are being taken by the Federal, and likely to be impacted states and local governments? Sadly, we are likely going to see a fire brigade approach when this avertable and unnecessary disaster happens.
There is the increasing farmer-herder clashes, a fallout of the struggle for access to resources such as land, water, and pasture in states like Zamfara, Adamawa, Kaduna, Taraba, Nasarawa, Benue, Plateau, Enugu, Ondo, amongst others. According to the 2023 Global Report on Internal Displacement, published in May 2023 by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, about 148,000 Nigerians have been displaced due to conflict and violence, while 2,437,000 are internally displaced by disasters. Amnesty International, in its 2018 Report on farmer-herder clashes, estimated that at least 3,641 people were killed between January 2016 and October 2018, strikingly, 57 per cent of them were in 2018 alone. Similarly, the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data (ACLED), reports that Nigeria had lost no fewer than 8,343 persons to farmer-herder clashes since 2015. Sadly, despite the passage of anti-open grazing laws in some states, amongst other administrative gymnastics efforts from governments, these issues persist. What more significant measures have been, and are being emplaced to stem the tide of incessant and unnecessary killings? Relatedly, Nigeria’s compliance with Article 4.2 of the Paris Agreement 2015 under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) leaves a sour taste in the mouth.
The Lagos State Government in focus
Now, the Lagos State government appears to have taken a different approach to the climate change challenge. The coastal State says it has earmarked 38 projects to mitigate the effects of climate change. Part of these 38 projects is the government’s decision to build 18km of embankments and sea walls along the State’s shorelines. This decision is a sequel to the state government’s construction of the 8.5km Great Wall of Lagos, and its drive to plant one million coconut seedlings along the 135-kilometre Badagry – Ibeju-Lekki coastline aimed at replacing old and unproductive trees to mitigate and bolster its diminishing coastline, amongst others efforts geared towards combating the ravaging climate change effects. Although the state government’s decision to build the 18km embankments and sea wall to protect an estimated two million inhabitants who live within that area and protect an estimated 700,000 vulnerable people has been viewed in some quarters as an economic decision aimed at safeguarding government revenue generating operations (as beaches along the shorelines generate huge revenue for the government), it is all the same, commendable. Notwithstanding the above, and just like Oliver Twist, citizens will not relent in demanding for extension of the project to cover all the important 180km long Lagoon Barrier coastline that are prone to environmental and ecological problems.
Similarly, strict compliance with the Environmental Impact Assessment Act, 1992, CAP E14, LFN 2004 must be prioritised in all cases, especially in the cases of incessant sand winning/dredging activities along the Lagos shoreline in places like Eti – Osa, Badore/Ajah, Ibeju – Lekki, Eleko, Iberukodo, Otolu, Magbon-Segun, Igbekodo, Akodo-Ise, Badagry, Majidun, Oto-Awori, Ebute-Ilaje, Epe, Ibeshe, to mention but a few. A number of these operations sand fill swamps and mangroves to give way for the construction of private residential estates, commercial projects and marine infrastructure, amongst others to the detriment of the environment.
Some other ways forward
Ultimately, mitigation and adaptation measures to climate change and global warming effect is a collective action. The Federal, states, and local governments are to synchronise their efforts in this regard. The Minister of Environment and its counterpart Commissioners of Environment must synergize efforts and fully implement the newly signed Climate Change Act, 2021, as well as work towards meeting all our national and international obligations codified in amongst others; international environmental protocols, conventions and treaties.
Some other mitigation and adaptation measures though not exhaustive will require a huge level of attitudinal changes such as adopting better transport (electric/CNG powered vehicles), food and energy-use choices, as well as adopting sustainable development for the present generation and generations yet unborn.
UZOMA Felix Izuma is a Legal Practitioner and a member of the NCF. +234 – 8167019838
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