Arguably the world is currently undergoing an extinction event, one with no time frame, whose extent and impact we are still beginning to understand – Global warming.
The risks related to this phenomenon are already impacting livelihoods and is one of the greatest global challenges of our time.
If you imagine how COVID-19 took the government and businesses entirely unprepared, the time is now to develop frameworks, policies and programmes that can mitigate the downside effects of climate change, while enhancing the opportunities.
For one thing, global warming is real. With this has been linked to climate change – long-term shifts in temperatures and weather patterns.
From a Nigeria perspective, with dire predictions of worse floods in 2023 – yes, worse than last year – the economy sluggishly creeping out of recession post covid, and hope in a new civilian government, population set to rise by nearly 100% by 2050 (from 213.4m to 401m by all accounts), what does this mean? Is it all doom and gloom? How about the good sides, the opportunities? Let’s start these conversations.
The floods interfere with our infrastructure, food production, basic
amenities for life like power and water, our homes, our crops and the economy.
And we are told that we need to do two things; Mitigation and Adaptation.
What do they mean on a macro, regional, local and personal scale? Let’s dive into these two words.
Mitigation means to prevent or stop from happening. But we cannot stop the floods from
happening, or can we?
We know that with climate risk, our usual rainy seasons are becoming much more
unpredictable, and that unpredictability of weather exists across the whole of Africa, indeed
across the world. Every country is struggling with the effect of climate change, we can no
longer deny it’s happening. The temperature in Nigeria has already risen by one degree
Celsius since 1960 . That might not seem a lot, but it is already messing with
the big things that make the weather. We can’t change the past, this temperature rise is
with us now, it’s REAL and it’s effect will be far reaching.
But we can do our bit to stop it getting worse. Imagine what another one degree increase in
temperature would do to the climate systems. Yes, I know that Nigeria contributes a
miniscule amount of climate change activity compared the developed countries. The scientists have proved that the big thing that changes our climate is the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
In 2021 we produced 0.60 tonnes of carbon dioxide per head of population .
Compare that to UK, which was 4.95, or the USA which was 14.24. But our 0.60 is more than
many of our neighbours (Cameroon is 0.38) and our rate of emitting carbon dioxide is going
up, when the Western countries are taking steps to going down.
While this is happening, the frightening rate of deforestation continues with 14% of our
forest cover lost in two decades. Why is this important? Forests absorb carbon dioxide;
fewer trees means even more carbon dioxide in the air.
We are blessed with three of the most important sustainable sources of energy ever, the
sun, wind and our rivers. So why are we not harnessing those more? Let’s look at dams. We need dams for two reasons; to produce hydroelectricity and to act as buffers against floods. But to produce electricity, the dams need to be full.
However, for the dams to act as buffers against floods, they need to be empty! Dams in a flood scenario will be submerged and not produce the energy we need. What about using our gas to power the economy? The time is now to start planning for gas powered electricity infrastructure. The government to create the enabling environment and private sector investors and entrepreneurs jump on the opportunities.
Adaptation is about responding to or reacting to the risks such as floods. With much more sophisticated warning systems, we have time to build flood drainage channels, empty our dams, clear our gutters, remove trash from our gullies and move our livestock to safe places. But when there were 1.3m people displaced by the 2022 floods, some of those responses seem facile and simplistic. Levees and dykes should be built around rivers to obstruct the flow water into low lands.
This is where the plans and policies which is the role of government, is key.
Over the next few weeks, in this series of articles on climate change risk management, we will interrogate some of these issues and suggest solutions, some of which might be uncomfortable, some costly, and some solutions where we can lead the world. The World Economic Forum (WEF) body suggests that boards take steps today to ensure that climate risk is given the attention it deserves in the coming months and years.
I will demonstrate that the fragility of our systems and our experience of the knock-on effects of climate events will make us stronger and more resilient as we learn and adapt.Far from being doomed, Nigeria has the amazing capacity and capability to rise to and overcome the challenge of climate risks, feed all growing population, protect our natural assets and become a net exporter of food and energy.
Nobody can “japa” from global warming related climate change. We are all in this together.
By Robert ChiDozie Mbonu Ms(RM) Stern, HCIB, C.IRM(UK). Writes from the United Kingdom.