The danger of choosing to ignore impact of climate change in Nigeria

Nigeria, like other nations to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and other treaties aimed at stabilising greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (i.e. the Kyoto Protocol and Paris Agreement), participated actively in the 2021 UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) that took place in Glasgow, between October and November 2021.

The goals of COP26 were for nations to renew their commitment to securing net-zero targets by mid-century and to keep the 1.5degrees target within reach; protect communities and natural habitats; mobilise finance to deliver on the first two goals, and work together to deliver on the various goals.

During the COP26, Nigeria committed to achieve net-zero by 2060, and barely a week after the conference, President Muhammadu Buhari signed into law the Climate Change Act, 20211 (the Act), which was passed into law by the National Assembly in October 2021.

For example, if you go to the supermarket and buy an item that does not require a plastic bag, politely decline the packaging

To many Nigerians, Climate Change and its treaties mean nothing to them because of the way its impacts are being communicated. However, in a recent article in this medium by Amara Nwuneli, a 15-year-old social innovator driven to make an impact/a manager of a social media movement called FightGlobalWarmingNg, itemised in a simple and clear language why we should be mindful of how we treat our environment. We agree totally with her and possible solutions, thus revisiting the article.

According to her, Climate Change is not a foreign word in the English dictionary and in the ears of our people. Although there is no actual term for it in the major Nigerian languages of Yoruba, Igbo, and Hausa, but we have heard of the impact of climate change through the common mottled phrases: “my house is flooding,” “the car is stuck in the road’s swimming pool,” “it has been raining for the past three days,” “we have not had a successful crop yield this year,” “I do not know what I am going to eat today.” The list spreads longer than any line of traffic seen in this nation. Its effects are also visible in headlines – “The crashing naira” and “The rising death rates linked to the farmer/herder conflict,” Yet, we still fail to associate our devastating problems with one of the fundamental causes – our worsening climate.

The United Nations notes that climate change refers to long-term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns. While some of the noticeable environmental shifts have been natural, human actions like the burning of fossil fuels, excessive use of coal, deforestation, pollution, and unstructured urban development have accelerated the pace at which the earth is warming, fostering devastating effects on our lives.

With the turn of the 21st Century and the technology age, there is a heightened awareness of the devastation destined for humankind. While there is increased global momentum to generate awareness, effect changes, propel action in our communities, and is more present in our daily conversations – Nigeria is relatively silent. Countless coastal communities have got fully submerged by water, yet, the government has no reliable report on the lives and infrastructure lost. It does not adequately cater to the needs of those most affected.

Why, because we have failed to create a foolproof plan that ensures a hopeful and just future for the citizens of our country. How will we all migrate and relocate 200 million people who call Nigeria home? At this rate, even the rich will not make it out.

Lagos, home to over 20 million people, is severely affected by climate change. With all our communities built around and near the coastline, the daily pushing of water closer to our land sadly means disaster for us – no matter how much we want to deny it.

Despite the alarming trends of rising temperatures and sea levels, unpredictable weather, and mass, we are still investing a large amount of money in infrastructure, including hotels, resorts, malls, and recreational centres, which are bound to disappear unless urgent action is taken. We all have critical roles to play in averting a looming disaster.

As a government, Nigeria must develop and implement a comprehensive plan for climate action at the Federal, State, and local levels. The government must constructively invest time and money into urban renewal projects, including developing greener environments, urban and rural resilience and sustainability interventions to address flooding, droughts, and erosion.

Read also: Osinbajo, proposes debt-for-climate swap deal

Private companies and institutions should uphold ethical climate forward values and ensure a limited carbon footprint. And should also partner non-profit organisations to implement sustainability initiatives.

Our educational and non-profit institutions must teach the younger generation about the impact of climate change and our role as climate champions. They must also hold the public and private sectors accountable to ensure that they meet and even exceed their commitments.

As citizens, we must change our lifestyles by educating ourselves about our contributions to climate change through our actions and inactions. We must develop the habit of recycling and using energy sparingly. Every little step counts. For example, if you go to the supermarket and buy an item that does not require a plastic bag, politely decline the packaging, or better yet, bring your cloth shopping bag!

Turn off the water heater after your shower and bring your container to Mama put. We must also plant trees and invest in greening our public spaces. A movement could be spurred if we all start incorporating climate action into our daily lifestyle.

She noted further, “I remain optimistic that if we work together, change our mindset on this topic and take swift and constructive action – we can turn around the fate of climate change in Nigeria.” Nigerians have the grit, determination, and the power to accomplish anything. It is not up for discussion whether or not we need change. We are doing it for us, for our country, and for the future.