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Addressing Climate Change and Related Environmental Issues in Nigeria

“Climate change is the greatest threat to our existence in our short history on this planet. Nobody’s going to buy their way out of its effects.” – Mark Ruffalo

From north to south, Nigeria is blessed with rich biodiversity and an enviable climate. It possesses one of the largest land masses in Western Africa, with a boisterous population of over 213 million. Increased population growth, technological advancement, and unnecessary exigencies have resulted in the abuse of its precious natural resources, thereby setting the stage for climate change’s entrance into Nigeria’s ecosystem. It is no news that Nigeria serves as a prime example of this circumstance, contending with a notable deterioration of its environment. Rising temperatures, deforestation, and flooding, among others, present undeniable evidence of the eroding effects of climate change, which are apparent in the day-to-day lives of average Nigerians. According to USAID’s Climate Risk Profile 2019, key climate impacts on agriculture, human health, water, and energy are expected.

Nigeria faces notable vulnerabilities in terms of climate security, particularly in its environmental aspects. Coastal states such as Ondo, Bayelsa, Cross-Rivers, Delta, Lagos, Ogun, etc. are at risk of flooding, while the southwest and southeast regions are relatively less susceptible compared to other parts of the country. Among the southern regions, the south-south (Niger Delta region) is the most exposed due to factors like sea level rise, increased precipitation, coastal erosion, and flooding. These conditions have led to the displacement of numerous living settlements. On the other hand, frontline states like Adamawa, Bauchi, Gombe, Kebbi, Sokoto, Jigawa, etc. are prone to desertification as a result of the combination of rising temperatures and reduced rainfall, which has accelerated desert encroachment, resulting in the loss of wetlands and a significant decrease in surface water, flora, and fauna resources on land. Droughts have become a recurring occurrence in Nigeria. The drying up and potential disappearance of Lake Chad and other lakes in the country are also attributed to these droughts. Climate projections for the upcoming decades indicate a substantial temperature increase across all ecological zones. Additionally, the vulnerability pattern to climate change aligns with the prevalence of climate-sensitive agricultural activities. The northern regions of Nigeria, which have a higher degree of rurality, are more predisposed to the impacts of climate change.

From a socioeconomic standpoint, slow adaptation responses to changing temperatures, unpredictable rainfall patterns, storms, and rising sea levels have the potential to expose certain regions of the country to the risk of violent conflicts for resources. These conflicts, in turn, generate negative secondary impacts such as increased illness, hunger, displacement, and other consequences, thereby creating an environment conducive to conflict and social disorder. The indirect effects of climate change can manifest themselves in various ways, including economic instability, political unrest, and social inequality. For example, as extreme weather events become more frequent and severe, agricultural productivity may decline, leading to food shortages and price hikes. This can intensify existing inequalities and tensions within communities, potentially sparking conflicts over resources and exacerbating social divisions. Additionally, the displacement of populations due to climate-related disasters can strain already fragile social systems and lead to competition for limited resources, further fueling conflict. Ultimately, addressing the socioeconomic impacts of malnutrition caused by food shortages, the spread of infectious diseases and illnesses transmitted through food and water (e.g., typhoid fever, cholera), escalated air pollution, and higher temperatures associated with a rise in meningitis cases. Specific social groups are particularly vulnerable to these crises, including female-headed households, children, persons with disabilities, Indigenous Peoples, ethnic minorities, landless tenants, migrant workers, displaced individuals, sexual and gender minorities, older people, and other socially marginalized groups. The underlying causes of their vulnerability stem from a combination of factors such as their geographical locations, financial and socioeconomic status, cultural background, gender dynamics, access to resources and services, decision-making power, and justice. These unique circumstances make it challenging for the Nigerian government to effectively manage natural resources, maintain ecosystem stability, and address societal unrest. Consequently, this leads to a decline in agricultural productivity, which adversely affects women and youths who rely on it as an unstable source of livelihood.

According to the World Bank’s projection for 2023, Nigeria’s economy is expected to experience an average improvement of 3.4% between 2023 and 2025. This positive trajectory can be attributed to the implementation of newly adopted reforms, leading to a progressive recovery in the agriculture and services sectors, as well as increased government spending on development initiatives. However, it is important to acknowledge that climate change is likely to have severe impacts on low-income and marginalized communities in Nigeria. These effects pose significant challenges to poverty eradication efforts, as they negatively impact economic growth, the livelihoods of the poor, and their assets. The agricultural sector holds immense importance for both livelihoods and the overall economy of Nigeria. Problems related to crop yields and productivity can have adverse consequences for the country’s gross domestic product. Extreme weather events, such as floods, can undermine economic growth by causing damage to production and infrastructure, which often requires additional and unplanned expenditures. Furthermore, the long-term and short-term effects of carbon emissions and deforestation will harm Nigeria’s national output growth. While Nigeria’s economy is expected to improve in the coming years, it is crucial to address the challenges posed by climate change to ensure sustainable and inclusive economic development, particularly by safeguarding the agricultural sector and reducing carbon emissions and forest depletion.

Agriculture plays a vital role in Nigeria’s economy, serving as a significant contributor to the country’s GDP, second only to the oil industry. Unlike oil, which benefits a limited portion of the population, agricultural activities provide livelihoods for many Nigerians. With over 70 percent of the population engaged in agriculture as their primary occupation and source of income, the sector holds immense importance. However, climate change poses significant challenges to agriculture in Nigeria. Higher temperatures, reduced rainfall, droughts, and desertification lead to the contraction of farmlands, decreased agricultural productivity, and negative impacts on crop yields. In the coastal regions, increased rainfall intensity, rising sea levels, flooding, and erosion further contribute to the decline in agricultural production. It is worth noting that agriculture in Nigeria largely depends on rainwater for irrigation, making it difficult for farmers to plan and manage their operations due to unpredictable variations in rainfall patterns. The effects of climate change also extend to the fisheries sector, which is crucial for many Nigerians. Climate change alters the characteristics of freshwater resources, affecting fishing activities. Sea level rise and extreme weather events pose challenges to fishing operations, while inland fisheries and aquaculture face threats from flooding, increased salinity, and the shrinking of rivers and lakes. Unpredictable variations in rainfall, heat stress, and drought have adverse consequences for food production and can lead to food shortages. Meanwhile, the high susceptibility of northern states to climate change poses a significant threat to food security across the country. Additionally, drought conditions in parts of northern Nigeria have resulted in reduced access to drinking water. For these reasons, addressing the impacts of climate change on agriculture and fisheries is crucial for ensuring food security, sustainable livelihoods, and economic stability in Nigeria.

The Federal Environmental Protection Agency (FEPA) was established with the primary responsibility of overseeing environmental management and protection in Nigeria. In 1999, the Federal Ministry of Environment was established through the merger of FEPA and relevant departments from various ministries. However, there was a notable gap in the effective enforcement of environmental laws within the country. To address this deficiency, the Nigerian Federal Government established the National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) on July 31, 2007. NESREA operates as a subsidiary of the Federal Ministry of Environment and currently plays a leading role in combating climate change in Nigeria. Even though Nigeria’s policies and targets demonstrate a reasonable commitment to curbing global warming using its resources, international assistance will be needed to achieve decarbonization of its economy while necessary emissions reduction remains consistent with a 1.5ºC limit. Here are some adaptive strategies that key stakeholders can apply to provide Nigeria with a competitive advantage in the climate change battle for survival:

• The government should finance agencies such as NEST (Nigerian Environmental Study and Action Team), NCCN (Nigerian Climate Change Network), and other environmental organizations to target all stakeholders and sensitize the public on the effects of climate change and practical strategies they can employ.• In a bid to encourage the shift towards sustainable energy, it is crucial for the government to actively motivate and provide incentives for the adoption of renewable energy sources. This action sets the tone to substantially reduce dependence on non-renewable energy sources such as firewood and charcoal, which will greatly reduce deforestation.• Enhanced involvement of agricultural extension experts is crucial for the enhancement of local agricultural practices. The active engagement of agricultural extension services plays a vital role in elevating agricultural productivity through the provision of valuable farming insights, weather updates, and skill-building training to farmers. These services contribute significantly to augmenting farmers’ productivity by mitigating the effects of climate change while improving their proficiency in agricultural activities.• Corporate organizations should endeavour to innovate sustainable (eco-friendly) goods and services. They should ensure that they embrace sustainable practices as a fulfillment of their corporate social responsibility (CSR) by embracing sustainable practices throughout their operations. This entails adopting various measures such as emission and waste reduction, recycling initiatives, and investing in renewable energy sources.• Insurance: This can serve as an effective strategy for adaptation, offering several ways to mitigate the impact of climate change on policyholders. However, Nigerian insurers have not sufficiently acknowledged the significance of climate change, as there is no evidence to suggest that they have actively explored the incorporation of climate change and weather-related losses into their industry practices. There seems to be a general uncertainty about undertaking climate-related risks. To address this issue, the Nigerian government needs to provide support to private insurance firms through policies that foster public-private partnerships to incentivize insurance companies to offer coverage for climate-related impacts on agricultural businesses. By fostering such collaborations, the government can promote greater enthusiasm among insurance companies to address climate risks in their operations and expand coverage to those affected by climate change.• To fully incorporate climate change adaptation into all aspects of Nigerian society, it is crucial for Nigerians to possess awareness, knowledge, and accessible information regarding climate change, its impacts, and adaptation strategies. Additionally, individuals and communities need to acquire specialized skills to effectively tackle climate change risks and implement adaptation measures. It is essential to improve climate change knowledge infrastructure in Nigeria to effectively reach policymakers, community-based organizations, students, and researchers who play a frontline role in delivering adaptation projects. Therefore, as individuals, thereis an unspoken responsibility that falls on us to the environment to be responsible caretakers and adopt sustainable living conditions, which includes saving energy at home, throwing away less food, cleaning up your environment, and patronizing local products. Valuable information can be disseminated to citizens to strengthen their knowledge, thus equipping them with the necessary tools to address climate change challenges and implement successful adaptation initiatives within the community.

By adopting these adaptive strategies, Nigeria can position itself advantageously in the global fight against climate change and enhance its resilience to its impacts. In a nutshell, climate change is no doubt a daunting challenge that is a global issue. While the current rate of adaptation in Nigeria is alarmingly sluggish, all stakeholders must swiftly embark on coordinated efforts to effectively combat climate change and desertification. It is essential for Nigeria, and indeed the entire African continent, to take the lead in this urgent crusade for our collective future.

Source : Zawya