If you think the issue of Climate Change in Nigeria is not worth discussing or is less important in the face of everything we are going through as a nation, then you need to have a rethink! Climate Change is killing us slowly and unlike some other issues, saving our environment cannot be done by the government alone. It is obligatory that we all, as Nigerians and Africans, take actions, no matter how little, to ensure that we protect our environment and save the planet. Making use of renewable energy, managing our wastes properly, flying during the day (because night flights have a bigger impact on climate), having fewer cars on the road and yes…planting more trees, are some of the many ways we can save our country from this impending catastrophe.
Continuing our series on the Climate Change Conversation, we chat with Adefolake Adekola, an Environmental and Social Development Specialist. She is currently the Social Safeguard Consultant on a World Bank Assisted Project (Community and Social Development Project) across 30 states in Nigeria.
Adefolake graciously takes us through all we need to know about climate change and the actions we can all take to tackle it.
Breaking Down Climate Change to the average Femi, Aminu and Obinna
Climate change refers to significant changes in global temperature, precipitation, wind patterns and other measures of climate that occur over several decades. There are two major factors of climate change which are: Human activities (anthropogenic), such as air pollution (bush burning), deforestation and emission of Greenhouse Gases (GHG) like carbon monoxide from cars. The other is natural processes.
All these activities lead to climate change which causes global warming and ultimately the depletion of the ozone layer which can lead to adverse environmental, health, social and economic effects.
The impact of climate change on the average Nigerian on the street seems minimal until we start breaking it down. When the climate suffers, it causes harm to our health first. Children, pregnant women and the elderly are more susceptible to the effects of climate change; such as stress, PTSD, cardiovascular, respiratory, and cerebrovascular disease and so many other diseases. Then afterwards it affects your environment.
Climate change leads to other environmental issues such as drought, heavy rainfall, and in extreme cases flooding. The next effect on the average Nigerian is economic; it begins to affect your standard of living and ultimately depreciates your livelihood because of the health and environmental effects. It is a full circle.
The Real Impact of Climate Change is HERE
The continuous floods that have happened across several states in Nigeria these past few years are the most realistic picture of what climate change is. Houses are covered in water and people drown on a regular basis during the rainy season. We are approaching the end of September and the rain is still pouring heavily. Ideally, the rain should have subsided by now, but the rain pours down as though we are in July.
Another example of climate change is found in South-South Nigeria, where the cloud is thick and black due to the illegal processing of crude oil and other fossil fuel activities ongoing there. Another realistic picture is the hot weather…. what! When the weather is hot, it is super-hot. Like, you can feel the sun literally burning your skin. That is a direct result of global warming, the depletion of the ozone layer has caused the weather to become hotter which can cause sunburns and other skin related diseases and in some cases skin cancer.
Now, based on research, I will say we have already started feeling the real impact of climate change. The weather in Nigeria now is increasingly hotter. We are have increased rainfall and floods.
Climate Change is directly and indirectly linked to our safety and standard of living especially in this part of the world. Nigeria is a country with a population of over 180 million people, if less populated countries can be serious about the effects of climate, it is a no-brainer for us, as a country, to make drastic changes that can correct the wrongs made in the past.
Things You & I Can Do to Reduce the Negative Impact of Climate Change
- The car craze needs to reduce. You do not need to drive to go everywhere. There is no reason why multiple cars from one household should be on the road at once. Instead of driving, try walking, cycling or taking public transport. Fewer cars equal less CO (Carbon monoxide) emission. Less CO emissions, less global warming. Less global warming, less climate change.
- Minimize air pollution activities such as bush burning, cooking with firewood, open burning of waste, CO emission from generator and pipeline explosion in the Niger Delta.
- Use renewable energy. Solar energy is a great source of energy to power our homes, offices and even commercial places. There are eateries that are powered by solar panels. When there is power shortage, the solar kicks in, there is no need to turn on generators. Sometimes, I go weeks without using the generator because of solar power at home; likewise at the office.
- The planting of trees cannot be over-emphasized. I say for every tree removed (deforestation), two more should be planted to keep the environment habitable. During the process of photosynthesis, trees take in carbon dioxide and produce the oxygen we breathe. At home, I have about 14 different plants which do not just serve as great shade, but also improve air and soil quality. They can reduce the amount of stormwater runoff, which reduces erosion and pollution in our waterways and may reduce the effects of flooding.
- Single use plastics need to go. This might sound extreme, especially to the non-environmentalist. Plastics are more harm than good. Petroleum products are used to make plastics.
New research shows that plastics emit GHG (Greenhouse gases) as they degrade in the environment. When they degrade, the GHGs go into the atmosphere thereby causing global warming which leads to climate change. We can reduce-reuse-recycle or better still find alternatives to using plastics.
Being eco-friendly in Nigeria hard!
I am an Environmentalist and I can tell you this for free, it is difficult to be environmentally friendly in Nigeria. I see people eat puff puff on the road and throw the plastic bag (nylon) on the road. It irks me everywhere knowing that the plastic bag or bottles can stay in the environment for the next 500 years. Then there are people who drive faulty cars releasing CO into the environment and into the faces of people, making them inhale toxic air that can lead to severe health issues.
The challenges are unending, but I’ll walk you through some that stand out.
• We do not have good waste management systems in Nigeria; so, even while on road trips I am forced to throw organic waste into the bush because there is no alternative provision.
• Our recycling culture is poor, so we have excess waste in dumpsites and everywhere, especially in populated cities. Dumpsites are breeding grounds for landfill gas, in which methane gas is about 60% and it is a Greenhouse gas contributing to climate change.
• There is no support. It is difficult to be an advocate of something when only a few people understand what you stand for. Most people think you have Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) or you are just trying to be difficult when you refuse to litter the environment.
The best way to overcome these challenges is to keep speaking, keep fighting for the environment because we are indirectly fighting for a better world for us all. We will continue to create awareness anywhere we find ourselves, and hope more people come on board.
Climate change is not less important than hunger or poverty!
It is the living that can be poor or rich or can complain about hunger. If our houses are being swept away by floods and the sun is burning our skins, what we need to do is to preserve the environment. I think it is wise to do that. Global warming is killing us slowly. We need to act now so we can be alive to enjoy the food, education, and money when development comes.
Government Intervention is crucial, In Addition to Other Organizations Doing the Work
The first step is for them to be educated about the impending danger. They need to be aware of the negative effects of climate change and how it affects us all. Usually, the State Ministries focus on Solid Waste Management (SWM) and forget about other environmental issues. Climate change is the mother of all environmental issues. SWM is only a child of climate change sticking its head out like a sore thumb.
Education on climate change is first, then implementation of policies. In Nigeria, we already have policies on climate change and environmental issues, but the implementation of these policies is the major challenge we face. Also, enforcement of these laws and regulations on climate will greatly contribute to solving this menace. It is also important to mention that the incorporation of environmental topics and mitigation measures into our school curriculum will positively impact Nigeria as a whole and enlighten people or the right steps to take to sustain our environment.
United Nations Climate Change Conference (UNCCC) is at the forefront of the fight on climate change. COP (Conference of Parties) is an international meeting of political leaders and activists to discuss environmental issues. Each year, they meet in different parts of the world to deliberate on how best to tackle environmental issues such as climate change. COP 25 will be held this December in Parque Bicentenario Cerrillos in Santiago de Chile.
World Bank currently has a project looking to handle air pollution (PMEH-Pollution Management and Environmental Health) program. The World Bank established a Multi-donor Trust Fund for Pollution Management and Environmental Health to promote more systematic and effective responses to deadly and costly air pollution. This project is looking to reduce the emission of GHG as well as provide mitigation measures especially in populous states like Lagos. They have also partnered with the likes of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) on technical strategies – ranging from satellite remote sensing and ground-level monitoring to emerging air sensors – to increase air quality data availability and support countries’ policy needs.
UNDP, UNEP, and so many other International Organizations are fighting severely to tackle this problem across Nigeria as we speak. NGOs as well have teamed up with the Federal and State Agencies to bring their input on board. Private businesses are not left out, as I am aware of a few that have made it their mission to fight climate change and other environmental issues in Nigeria such as Action Gx based here in Nigeria.
Here’s what you can influence your friends and family about how to save the environment
There are so many ways we can get people to become environmentalists without even knowing. My mother unconsciously holds her nostrils when passing beside a car releasing CO or winds up her window. All it took was a conversation explaining to her the effect of inhaling the toxic fumes and she was on board. My colleagues keep their plastic plates for reuse, even at home.
Communication is key, there is no need to force it down their throat. When people realize it is detrimental to their health, they will take caution.
Also, practice what you preach. I have trees at home. I use solar energy. I take walks as often as possible. I keep my recyclable plastic until I am opportune to re-use them. Being environmentally conscious is a lifestyle for me. Let it become your lifestyle and people around you will adjust.
Taking a stand on climate change not only about the government or the leaders. It is the responsibility of everyone to protect our environment. The makeup artist should understand his or her own role, the mechanic, the teacher, the housewife and so on.
We all have the responsibility of saving this country.
Hey BNers, if you enjoyed reading this and want to find more about Adefolake and the work she does, you can check out her website HERE. Check out her book, Functioning In the Knowledge of Who You are. You can also follow her on Twitter and Instagram.