By Chris Nku, B.Eng, M.Eng, MNIM, MNSE
Climate change is a change in global or regional climate patterns, including patterns of temperature, precipitation (rain or snow), humidity, wind and seasons. Climate patterns play a fundamental role in shaping natural ecosystems, and the human economies and cultures that depend on them. But the climate we have come to expect is not what it used to be, because the past is no longer a reliable predictor of the future. Our climate is rapidly changing with disruptive impacts, and that change is progressing faster than any seen in the last 2,000 years.
Climate change is attributed largely to the increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide produced by the use of fossil fuels.When fossil fuels - coal, oil and natural gas - are burnt they release CO2 into the atmosphere. Because of this the layer of greenhouse gas is getting thicker, which is in turn making the Earth warmer. Thus the ongoing unlimited burning of fossil fuels is the cause of climate change.
The danger associated with the rising levels of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere have warmed the Earth and are causing wide-ranging impacts, including rising sea levels caused by melting snow and ice, more extreme heat events, fires and drought, more extreme storms, rainfall and floods. Scientists project that these trends will continue and in some cases accelerate, posing significant risks to human health, biodiversity, forests, agriculture, freshwater supplies, coastlines, and other natural resources that are vital to World's environment, economy, and our overall quality of life.
The history of the scientific discovery of climate change began in the early 19th century when ice ages and other natural changes in paleoclimate were first suspected and the natural greenhouse effect first identified. In the late 19th century, scientists first argued that human emissions of greenhouse gases could change the climate. Many other theories of climate change were advanced, involving forces from volcanism to solar variation. In the 1960s, the warming effect of carbon dioxide gas became increasingly convincing, although some scientists also pointed out that human activities, in the form of atmospheric aerosols, could have cooling effects as well.
During the 1970s, scientific opinion increasingly favored the warming viewpoint. By the 1990s, as a result of improving fidelity of computer models and observational work confirming the Milankovitch theory of the ice ages, a consensus position formed: greenhouse gases were deeply involved in most climate changes, and human emissions were bringing serious global warming .
Since the 1990s, scientific research on climate change has included multiple disciplines and has expanded, significantly increasing our understanding of causal relations, links with historic data and ability to numerically model climate change circulation (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/global_warming)
The first UN Climate Change Council of Parties (COP), Conference was held in Berlin, in April 1995 with the aim of a global agreement on the reduction of climate change. The 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference was held inParis, France, from 30th November to 12th December, 2015. It was the 21st yearly session of the Conference of the Parties to the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on ClimateChange (UNFCCC) and the 11th session of the Meeting of the Parties to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol (John, and Berlinger, 2005).
The conference negotiated the Paris Agreement, a global agreement on the reduction of climate change. The agreement will become legally binding if joined by at least 55 countries which together represent at least 55 percent of global greenhouse emissions. Such parties will need to sign the agreement in New York between 22nd April, 2016 to 21st April, 2017, and also adopt it within their own legal systems. "Nearly 200 Nations Adopt Climate Agreement At COP21 Talks In Paris" (Chappel, 2015). The agreement calls for zero net anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions to be reached during the second half of the 21st century.
The location of UNFCCC talks is rotated by regions throughout United Nations countries. France serves as a model country for delegates attending COP21 because it is one of the few developed countries in the world to decarbonize electricity production and fossil fuel energy while still providing a high standard of living. As of 2012, France generated over 90% of its electricity from zero carbon sources, including nuclear, hydroelectric, and wind.On 12th December, 2015 the participating 195 countries agreed by consensus to the final global pact, (the Paris Agreement), to reduce emissions as part of the method for reducing greenhouse gas. In the 12-page document, the members agreed to reduce their carbon output "as soon as possible" and to do their best to keep global warming "to well below 2 degrees C"."Nearly 200 Nations Adopt Climate Agreement At COP21 Talks In Paris"(Chappell, 2015).
Nigeria is experiencing adverse climate conditions with negative impacts on the welfare of millions of people. Following release of the 4th Assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Africa will be worst hit by the effects of Climate Change, and Nigeria will be heavily impacted (Atilola ,2010) Climate Change is real and evidence abounds in the country.
Although the country has been lucky not to have experienced major climate-change-induced natural disasters, the effect of climate change is evidenced by rise in sea levels and erosion along the nation's coastline; the weather pattern is no longer distinct in the country, we have witnessed very hot weather conditions and high precipitations leading to flooding which ruined crops in parts of the country creating food scarcity. Gully erosion has sacked many communities especially in Edo and Anambra States; as a result of persistent drought, the Lake Chad has almost dried up, while there had been persistent desert encroachment in the north. The dearth of statistical data and non-collection environmental data in a systematic manner make it difficult to estimate in concrete terms the overall effect of climate change on: agriculture and food supply, flooding and erosion, health risks diseases spread, water resources, wildlife, level of CO2 emission and trends in temperature increase, and their effects on the social and economic systems of the country.
A comprehensive audit of the environment is needed to quantify the effects of global warming and the level of degradation and loss of biodiversity, so that we can start to put in place some mechanism for responding to these challenges. Climate change is also affecting Nigeria's energy sector profoundly. Conflict over the use of water resources among different economic sector has adversely affected the hydropower plants in Kainji, Jebba and Shiroro which is the key to the security of electricity supply in the country and represent about one-third of the country's total installed electricity generating capacity.
These plants have produced significantly lower energy leading to epileptic power supply as a result of excessive drought that lead to evaporation affecting water volume and the capacity of the power plants to produce optimally. Incessant power outage increases the cost of doing business and hampers the pace of industrialization in the country (Atilola, 2012). Industries that are dependent on climate sensitive resources or conditions e.g. agro businesses, construction, infrastructure, transportation, pollution control are potentially vulnerable to changes in the climate. Conflicts with indigenous people relating to their displacement, changes to their natural habitat (deforestation, pollution degradation etc), and influences on their ancestral customs and modes of economic production.
How Should Nigeria respond to climate change? Climate change is a reality. Therefore the nation should be proactive in her response to the phenomenon and its challenges and should not wait until much damage is done which will be very costly to correct. Nigeria must take up the challenge and seek cooperation and collaboration with International Agencies in other to create opportunities for technology transfer (Adeyinka et al,2005).
There are a number of adaptation and mitigation options that the country can embark upon using the existing government institutions and NGOs like - Gas Alert for Sustainable Initiative (GASIN) .The Agriculture and Research Institutions should commence research into crops that are resistant to drought and heat. The River Basin Authorities should commence the study, design and construction of new water projects for drought management and erosion control. The Ministries of Environment should start addressing the rapid erosion of the nation's sandy coast by construction of dykes and storm surge barrier against sea level rise; while further development on wetlands, flood plains, and areas close to sea level, especially by the poor who are most vulnerable to disasters, should be stopped.
The mitigation options should start with the gas flaring and oil pollution in the Niger Delta which should be tackled with all the force of government and stopped forthwith. Deforestation should be reduced by encouraging mechanized farming and use of cooking gas instead of wood fuel, while concerted efforts should be made to address aforestation and reforestation. The Ministry of Science and Technology and Universities of Technology should start research into “Clean - Energy Technologies,” Solar Energy, as an ultimate alternative to fossil fuel burning.
A National Climate - Change Adaptation/Mitigation Task Force with members drawn from various relevant Parastatals, Ministries, NGOs, Research Groups and relevant Institutions should be set up to address various responses to Climate change as well as carry out national research program on the effects of climate change on the country. There should be Environmental Baseline Survey and Data for managing environmental problems and climate change for Nigeria. (Adeyinka et al,2005).
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