Climate Change: A World Standing on the Brink
Twenty-seven thousand years ago, the Younger Drayas provided the world with a catastrophic climate change. With the way things are going, are we not about to face another sudden catastrophe?
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In the Younger Dryas era about twenty-seven thousand years ago, during a period of global warming, the world suddenly plunged into the glacial age, through fresh water pouring into the North Atlantic Ocean, preventing the descent of salt water into the depths.
For others, the era came due to an explosion of the Laacher See volcano, which spewed dust into the atmosphere in a worldwide level, ushering in a sudden climate change through the Younger Dryas.
For others still, the era arrived through a meteorite blasting into somewhere in South Africa, creating a climate-changing dust in an atmosphere under pressure from global warming
Whether the Younger Dryer came as a result of freshwater or the Laacher See volcano or the meteorite from space, catastrophic climate change occurred in a sudden way to a world already under pressure from global warming. In any number of countries, Nigeria inclusive, numerous climatic factors abound in an environment challenged by global warming, and they could present the world with another Younger Dryas, through a sudden catastrophic climate change.
Credit: Living on Earth
For example, the oil spills in Nigeria can bring about a sudden climate change to a nation under the pressure from global warming. Nigeria lost through oil spills 23,773 barrel or 3.8 million litres of crude oil in 2021 with 331 incidents, according to Vanguard Newspapers.
The development, according to data collected during Joint Investigation Visits (JIVs) carried out at oil spill sites, and supplied by oil companies to the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency, NOSDRA, represents a 22 per cent rise in incidence when compared to 18,563 barrels or three million litres recorded in 2020 in 384 incidents.
Recently, a vessel with a storage capacity of two million barrels of oil exploded off the coast of southern Nigeria’s Delta State.
Credit: The Guuardian
According to Aljazeera, Shebah Exploration & Production Company Ltd (SEPCOL), the owner of the vessel, said that flames had engulfed it. The floating production, storage and offloading vessel could process up to 22,000 barrels of oil a day, according to the operator’s website.
In less than three years, weak infrastructure, especially pipelines, led to the spillage of 14 million litres of crude oil worth N2.8 billion, creating environmental dangers and health burdens, leading to increase in cases of infant mortality and cancers.
Apart from oil spills, flood or drought could suddenly be a means to plunge the country under pressure from global warming into a climate-changing condition.
In 2019, the National Emergency Management Agency revealed that floods had displaced approximately 1.9 million Nigerians, and this could impact on agriculture. The country generates a significant amount of power from its hydroelectric dam- Kainji Dam. Unpredictable rainfall and drought patterns reduce the water level in Kainji Dam and other smaller ones, according to Futurelearn.com. This could have an effect on the forest cover and farms dependent on dams through irrigation.
An abrupt stop of rainfall and deadly floods across parts of Nigeria illustrate the climate risks facing Africa’s most populous country. Many states in Nigeria rely on rain-fed agriculture, which makes a larger number of small scale-holder farmers vulnerable to the vagaries of weather.
Just as humans worried in the period before Younger Dryas, environmental activists worry about the potential impact of the oil spill from the exploded vessel.
“There will definitely be a spill,” said Mike Karikpo of the local NGO, Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria, to Aljazeera. “This is a facility that handles over 20,000 barrels per day. The oil will reach the surrounding communities.”
In 2019, 34 million people globally were food insecure due to droughts or heavy rainfall. To have money for survival, they engage in indiscriminate bush burning and the cutting of trees, fuelling global warming. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said the humanitarian impacts of global warming will be far worse in the decades to come if there are no drastic efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This is enough to put pressures on a world put under pressure by so many negative climate factors.
Though a Younger Dryas-type climate change hasn’t happened, ActionAid Nigeria disclosed that Nigeria will lose N38 trillion to challenges from global warming by 2050, if cutting down trees and indiscriminate bush burning continue.
Its Country Director, Ene Obi, said: “Climate change will cost Nigeria between six percent and 30 percent of its GDP by 2050. And this is worth between $100 billion and $460 billion, which is N38 trillion will be lost to climate change.”
As for the Department for International development (DFID), it concluded that effects from global warming will cost Nigeria between 6 percent and 30 percent of its GDP by 2050, worth between $100 billion and $460 billion.
Global warming will negatively affect the Nigerian economy with various observable impacts ranging from significant reduction in agricultural productivity to increase in illness, morbidity and mortality rate, wrote Nebedum Ekene Ebele and Nnaemeka Vincent Emodi in a paper titled Climate Change and Its Impact in Nigerian Economy, published in the Journal of Scientific Research & Reports. Even before a sudden climate change, situations worsen, given the linkage of the agricultural sector to poverty. Adverse impacts on the agricultural sector exacerbates the occurrence of rural poverty. The present situation provides the potential to affect African agriculture in a range of ways leading to an overall reduction of productivity which could result to a loss in GDP of between 2 % to 7 % in 2100 in the Sahara and 2 to 4% in Western Africa.
Even before a sudden catastrophic climate change, negative transformations in the fishing sector face Nigerians. In the coastal zone, the loss of mangrove forest raises eyebrows, since the plant provides a conducive environment for young fish to mature. With regards to a study conducted on climate change in Nigeria by Nigerian Environmental Study /Action Team (NEST), it concludes that since 2001 till date, the fishing activities in the various eco zones of the Nigerian coastal regions have drastically reduced due to the present rise in sea level and heavy rainfall, causing a great decline in the fish production business in these areas. The decline of the fish business adds other pressures on the environment.
Climate change is having a large impact on Nigeria, according to Daisy Dunne in Carbon Brief in 2020. The astonishing rise in extreme heat harasses many millions of people without access to air conditioning or electricity, and changes to precipitation threaten Nigeria’s largely rain-fed agricultural sector. Some suggest that global warming could fuel the risk of conflict in the north of the country.
"In my teenage years, I started hearing about ozone layer depletion. I thought all the effects of global warming would not come in my own generation, but I am feeling the impact already. I am seeing the dangers and effects all around me. I am anxious to do something about it,” Sr. Elizabeth wrote in Africa Sisters Education Collaborative in 2018.
Experts say the atmosphere is like a blanket covering the earth. Due to the increasing concentration of methane, carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and water vapor into the atmosphere mainly by human activities, the warmth of the sun rays reflected by the earth are not sufficient to disperse these gases back into outer space. Thus, the atmosphere traps the heat of the sun, causing global warming to a place like Nigeria.
In the south, global warming and rising sea levels push back the shoreline, forcing thousands of Nigerians to move inland, looking for new places to call home, according to Stears Business.
Credit: The Citizen
Cars and buses constantly swim in water, commuters wade through floods, and homeowners lament over their properties in Lagos during the last rainy season.
Other Nigerians groan over the yearly floods that engulf the coastal cities during the months of March to November. In mid-July, however, the major business district of Lagos Island experienced one of its worst floods in recent years.
"It was very bad," Eselebor Oseluonamhen, 32 told CNN. "I drove out of my house. I didn't realize it had rained so much. There was heavy traffic on my route because of the flood. The more we went, the higher the water level. The water kept rising until it covered the bumper of my car then there was water flowing inside my car," Oseluonamhen, who runs a media firm on the Lagos mainland, recalled.
In the north, hundreds of thousands of persons abandon their homes due to inconsistent rainfall, food insecurity, and climate-related conflicts - all which impact on a global warming world.
Credit: Future Learn
As global climate conditions worsen, the geographical landscape of the country transforms. It is becoming increasingly difficult for the environment to provide sustenance and for individuals and communities to protect themselves and adapt.
Just as in the period before the Younger Dryas, the poor people suffer the most. 70% of Nigerians depends on agriculture for their basic needs and income. This is one of the areas that global warming impacts the most.
So how do we prevent a sudden catastrophic climate change, something as serious as the Younger Dryas episode?
Nigerian children are highly exposed to air pollution and coastal floods, but improvements in child health, nutrition and education can increase their capacity to understand the impacts of climate change.
“The climate crisis is a child’s rights crisis,” said Peter Hawkins, UNICEF Nigeria Representative. “Nigeria is not immune to the effects of climate change, but we can act now to prevent it from becoming worse.” With children understanding issues at stake, future pressures on a global warming world would be reduced.
Mitigation concerns itself with reducing the causes of climate change (global warming and greenhouse gas emissions) while adaptation focuses on the impact of climate change. Because climate change is mostly a global issue, no one country, Nigeria inclusive, can solve the challenge alone. The likes of China and the US need to offer a large amount of assistance.
Therefore, Nigeria has to adapt to the effects of climate change and mitigate the negative impact of climate change at the international, national and individual levels. However, the fragility of Nigeria’s systems and shaking structures make one to consider paying attention to ecosystem services. Direct and indirect contributors of the environment, they comprise services such as food, fresh water, soil formation and retention, oxygen production, and climate regulation. Although these services are affected by climate change, they form part of the solution.
To adapt to climate change, the Nigeria needs to concentrate in agricultural science research so that scientists can produce crops that are resistant to the harsh climatic conditions and construct drought-resistant hydroelectric dams.
According to Premium Times, Nigeria faces a serious food crisis except the government takes necessary action. The impact of these changes without adaptation could cost between six per cent and 30 per cent of Nigeria’s GDP by 2050, amounting to between USD 100 billion and USD 460 billion, says the Nigerian Federal Ministry of Environment, quoting a report by the Department for International Development (DFID).
But a solution exists, because just about most people suggest that one of the key factors to the solution is through people’s power, a very important factor. People’s power expressed itself through the September 2019 climate strikes, also known as the Global Week for Future. People’s power bared its fangs through the protest against climate change's impact amid flooding in the Muara Angke Port area in Jakarta, Indonesia. People’s power came about when men and women and children protested against the building of mines in Sweden. Even though, according to the International Energy Agency, the transformations of each human being will only account for around 4% of cumulative emissions reduction in the path towards net zero, humanity expressing itself through people’s power can take a stand so Nigerians and the world in general do not have to face a sudden catastrophic change on the scale of Younger Dryas.