Why public sensitisation to climate change is important

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BY TUNMISE OLABIYI

In Nigeria, the term climate change has become a cliché. The term and the concept alongside everything it represents are considered to be of no measurable impact or effect on the average man “hustling” on the streets. It is also widely considered as another means for government officials and non-governmental officials to siphon money. Unfortunately, this is wrong. Our entire existence literally depends on the stability of our climate.

The effect of climate change across Nigeria has gone beyond just mere clichés or popular terms. The effects of climate change are becoming more apparent daily across the country.

Unfortunately, the general populace is oblivious to these things. Beyond the environmental effects, climate change has impaired the country’s economic growth across different sectors. It is safe to say that these effects are not peculiar to Nigeria; there have been similar outbreaks across the world.

In the past decade, Nigeria has witnessed high variability in the precipitation level across different regions of the country. The southern region has experienced significantly high and heavy rainfalls in regular intervals of three years and the northern region of the country, especially the North-West and North-Central, has experienced significantly low and inconsistent rainfalls over the past decade. This has of course led to severe flooding and droughts in these regions.

There have been several breakouts of floods and droughts across the country.

Between 2011 and 2020, Nigeria recorded more than 1,187 deaths related to flooding, equivalent to 15 per cent of the total flood-related deaths that occurred across Africa within the same period.

The widespread 2012 flooding in Nigeria directly affected more than seven million people and claimed the lives of more than 500 people.

Prior to that, about 90,000 hectares of farmland were subdued by flood in 2010.

In 2022 alone, Nigeria recorded about 662 deaths due to flooding, 3,174 injured persons, 200,000 houses destroyed, and more than 2.5 million people displaced from their homes.

These are not just numbers; these figures translate into the low quality of life that is currently pervasive throughout the country. One of the most predominant casualties of climate change, especially in developing economies such as Nigeria, is agriculture.

The percentage of hungry Nigerians has increased steadily from 11 per cent in 2014 to about 20 per cent in 2022. In 2023, the country ranked 105 out of 125 countries with a Global Hunger Index score of 28.3, indicating that Nigeria has a serious hunger crisis. The primary drivers of this are reduced food production and high commodity prices; offshoots of droughts and floods.

The northern region has been experiencing significant and consistent droughts over the past 10 years as well.

“To put the figure in proper context, Nigeria’s GDP is expected to rise to $6.4trn by 2050”

According to Statista, about 81 per cent of northern households are involved in agriculture compared with 60 per cent in the southern region. This is why environmental disasters that affect food production in the northern region destabilise food supply across the country. It is one of the reasons the country has consistently experienced food shortages over the past few years.

The persistent northern drought has also led to mass migration of herdsmen and cattle rearers to the southern region of the country, causing conflicts and violent clashes among herdsmen and local farmers in the South.

In 2014, about 1,229 people were killed due to the herdsmen-local farmers’ clashes across the country. The death toll rose to 1,500 in 2018. This has had adverse effects on the quantity and quality of agricultural outputs across the region.

Climate change is not just a cliché; it has real effects on our survival. Beyond its visible effects on food security and human security, it continues to have negative effects on Nigeria’s economic growth, albeit unbeknownst to the relevant stakeholders.

In 2012, it was estimated that Nigeria was losing approximately $100m to climate change disasters annually.

The Agora policy document claimed that as of 2020, Nigeria had lost a cumulative of about $100bn to climate change. This figure is expected to quadruple to $400bn by 2050. To put the figure in proper context, Nigeria’s GDP is expected to rise to $6.4trn by 2050. This means the country would have lost cumulatively about six per cent of its current GDP to climate change by then. For an emerging and fledgling economy, this can have extremely dampening effects on economic growth.

It is therefore important for relevant stakeholders to ramp up efforts towards sensitising the public to the causes and effects of climate change within our environment.

Although there have been some activities with respect to this, none have yielded effective actions that translated into tangible results.

In 2017, the Federal Government issued green bonds to raise N10.9bn for green capital
projects.

This fund was used to sponsor the implementation and execution of three main green projects; the Energising Education Project, the Rural Electrification Project, and the Afforestation Project. Several private sector institutions have also raised climate-related capital by issuing green bonds such as the North South Power Company Limited, to fund the generation of sustainable energy solutions for Nigerians.

The Nigerian Exchange Group and the Security and Exchange Commission have also developed and adopted specific regulations to guide the issuance and liquidity of green bonds in the country. This was done to take advantage of the $2.5tn global green bonds market.

To ensure the effective democratisation of climate education across the country, the Federal Government should create a unified network through which all private sector institutions can pool resources or finances from, to drive the development of a sustainable environment. The Department of Climate Change of the Federal Ministry of Environment should be repositioned to a frontline essential unit.

The effects of climate change are very massive and produce ripple effects throughout different regions and segments of the economy. It should not be attended to frivolously. Nigeria is currently ranked as the sixth least prepared country for climate change globally and 53rd most vulnerable country to climate change. To preserve our survival and improve the quality of lives across the country, relevant stakeholders must be put on their toes to get the necessary work done. We need to drive this awareness across the country and get every citizen to take responsibility for the sustainability of our environment.

.Tunmise Olabiyi writes via tunmiseolabiyi@gmail.com