On Monday of this week, the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued its latest consensus report from global scientists. Its conclusion is that the current unprecedented global warming is “unequivocally” due to human activity.
António Guterres, the UN secretary-general, warned: “[This report] is a code red for humanity. The alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable: greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuel burning and deforestation are choking our planet and putting billions of people at immediate risk.”
Global climate change is already having a detrimental impact on the people of Nigeria. Average temperatures have risen higher than the global average and are higher still for the more northern areas. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) identified Nigeria as a climate change “hot spot” likely to see further major shifts in the weather before 2100.
In the north, the rains are reducing and becoming more irregular, but individual storms may be more intense. This is producing extensive desertification coupled with flooding.
In the south, the rains are increasing, timings are less reliable and again floods are becoming more common. Coupled with rising sea levels, this has led to coastal erosion especially around Lagos and in the Niger Delta.
Unpredictable rainfall makes it difficult for farmers to decide when to plant their crops. Some 85 percent of all agriculture is rain-fed, and many crops are sensitive to even tiny shifts in rainfall and temperature. Shifts in the timing and distribution of rainfall are affecting agricultural practices, crop production, and food security. It is likely to lead to lower crop yields and so higher food prices. Many workers already spend more than half their salaries on buying food. Food inflation of around 22% in the last year may be partly due to global warming.
Impacts on health include extreme heat, malnutrition (due to increased prices and unemployment), spread of diseases like typhoid and cholera and increased pollution.
Nights in particular are warming and the coldest nights are becoming less frequent. Warming nights can lead to sleeplessness and more frequent malaria as the mosquito population and its parasites thrive in warmer conditions.
These impacts are expected to get worse over the twenty-first century and beyond.
The most northerly regions are suffering from increased temperatures and a reduction in rainfall. There has been a 25% decrease in rain in the last 30 years. Within 25 to 45 years the rainy season may reduce by another week. The result is further desert encroachment and loss of wetlands. Lake Chad has shrunk by 90% due to climate change and water extraction since the 1960s, similarly groundwater tables have dropped sharply in the last 50 years. NE and NW are the most vulnerable to climate change. Temperatures may increase by 2.5 degrees in the North East over the next 30 years and 4.5 degrees over the next 60 years. This will increase the frequency of droughts which are already a problem in this zone. Rains are expected to reduce by a further 10% by 2100.
The Sahara desert is advancing Southward at the rate of 0.6km every year covering approximately 1,400 square miles. According to some estimates, two-thirds of Bauchi, Borno, Gombe, Jigawa, Kano, Kaduna, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto, Yobe, and Zamfara states could turn to desert or semi-desert conditions in the twenty-first century (Sayne, 2011, 4). Their population is around 65 million. Government geological data show a 400 percent increase in sand dunes over twenty years (Sayne, 2011, 4) these have encroached whole villages and large areas of arable lands, reducing viable agricultural lands and crop yields (Elisha et al., 2017). Health impacts include increased incidence of meningitis, malaria and cholera.
This and population growth are the reason that the Fulani have been moving south to search for fresh pastures as farmers also extend their cultivation areas to compensate for rising population and reducing yields.
Temperatures, rainfall amount and variability are all expected to rise further. Storms, floods and droughts will all increase. Rising sea levels and ocean surge has submerged villages in some places in Lagos and the Niger Delta. Within 25 to 45 years the rainy season may extend by two weeks. Heavy rain and floods are already a problem in the south and SE and are expected to get worse. Rainfall will increase most in the Niger Delta and around Calabar.
Malaria may increase it already affects 50% of people each year and nearly half of hospital visits may be related to malaria.
Many studies have identified the Niger Delta region as highly vulnerable to impacts from climate change, stemming from sea level rise, increased precipitation, and intensive industrial activities from oil exploration (Matemilola, 2019). Coastal erosion and flooding are the most pervasive problems, which have caused the displacement of many settlements in some regions of the Niger Delta. Flooding caused by sea level rise is also contaminating freshwater aquifers, rivers, and stock-watering points, leaving them with high salinity and more polluted with sediment and sewage.
- Increase access to electricity beyond the current one in three to reduce the use of firewood and charcoal
- Increase public provision of safe water
- Increase spending on education and health
- Increase planting of forests especially Green Wall in the north
- Stop gas flaring as the largest contribution to climate change in Nigeria
- Increase provision of public transport with electric buses to reduce pollution.
Further reading: https://www.usip.org/sites/default/files/Climate_Change_Nigeria.pdf