Our climate is changing. At the United Nations General Assembly that just concluded, there was a Climate Action Summit, which addressed the dire consequences of Climate Change. In the face of worsening climate crisis, world leaders from government, business, and civil society met to come up with new pathways and practical actions to shift global response into higher gear. They deliberated on potentially far-reaching steps to confront the climate emergency that we are faced with today.
Climate change is the defining issue of our time and now is the defining moment to do something about it. There is still time to tackle climate change but it will require an unprecedented effort from all sectors of society. At the Summit, 16-year-old Greta Thunberg gave an emotional speech that moved spectators to the need to take serious and act on climate change.
Even in Nigeria, we can feel the effect of climate change with the Harmattan season proving to be hot, instead of the cool weather that it is supposed to be.
Like the weather, most Nigerians should agree that our climate is changing all the time. Because of global climatic cycles, some of the changes are natural while others are caused by human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels and gas emissions. In the past when I heard scientists talking about protecting the environment and reducing emissions of greenhouse gases, I put it down to the fact that they did not have better things to talk about. With millions of men, women and children being abused and starving the world over, why would a scientist solely be concerned with how many vehicles we drive? Besides, any talk about the ozone layer sounded more like the title of a Sci-Fi adventure movie for children to me back then. But upon doing some research and coming across numerous meteorological accounts that climate change is one of the most pervasive threats to the web of human life, I realised the supreme importance of considering the devastation of weather change. What prompted me to do research in this field was as a result of the countless, recurring natural disasters that have been occurring and reported all over the world in the last couple of years. Every time one turns on the news there seems to be a report of a wild fire, hurricane, earthquake, typhoon, snow storm, drought or cyclone and I wanted to understand whether these unfortunate events had any connection with the talk of the greenhouse effect.
The truth is that much of our lives depend on our climate because we rely on water stored underground, in lakes and reservoirs for our personal use and crop irrigation. If the climate changes and warms up, the ability of the land to store moisture or the rain to fall changes. Evidence of the effects of climate change is presently being felt throughout the world. All over the globe, forests are burning, glaciers are melting, avalanches are threatening, soil is eroding, water is flooding, snow is receding and oceans are warming; posing a risk to many marine creatures. The warm climate is upsetting seasonal cycles, harming ecosystems, affecting agriculture, food production and causing sea-levels to rise. In addition, landslides, drought and famine are experienced. On top of this imminent threat, hotter heat waves create an ideal breeding ground for disease infested insects and rodents to expand their range while species are pushed to extinction. In Nigeria, the effects could include an increase in epidemics of water-borne diseases such as malaria, typhoid, hepatitis and cholera.
Statistics show overwhelming evidence that the planet has warmed by about one degree Fahrenheit over the course of the past century with the final two decades of the 20th century being the hottest on record. This is due to rise even more rapidly in the coming decades. The cause of this hybrid is because of the thickening layer of carbon dioxide pollution mostly from power plants and automobiles that traps heat in the atmosphere.
Evidence shows that carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels used in vehicles and dirty power plants has formed a blanket around the earth and is warming it. The gasses act like the gas of a greenhouse, trapping heat that would otherwise radiate off into space. The heat then rebounds onto the earth's surface and the planet's temperature rises, creating the greenhouse effect.
Its harmful impact on the worlds’ climate is now so overwhelming, especially given the fact that we have been pumping it into the world atmosphere for more than two centuries.
Although a certain level of global warming is natural and essential to sustain life, the excessive emission of greenhouse gases accelerates this process by trapping too much heat and resulting in devastating effects on the world. Meteorologists argue that the recent change of weather is the natural consequence of this green house effect. Whether we subscribe to this argument or not, we can’t deny that the recent behavior of the weather and atmosphere has been irregular to what we are normally used to.
If our behavior, as a people, has had anything to do with the freak trend of the climate, it is imperative for us to study natural events and strive to correct the continuing damage on the world at this stage. While it is impossible to completely stop global warming, we do have the ability to lessen the process, allowing nature time to adjust to this man made problem. Since we know that the majority of heat trapping gases comes from vehicles and power plants, we have the capability to curb their emissions by perfecting modern technologies and passing stronger laws regarding vehicle use and power plant management.
Typically, it is quite common to see cars and trucks in this country traveling the motorways with an unbelievable amount of exhaust fume. Regulations need to be passed prohibiting vehicle owners from operating such hazardous machines because apart from damaging the ozone layer, they further pose threats to other motorists.
Since we are a heavily populated country with a vast number of vehicles, the Nigerian authorities should educate the nation on the ill effects of climate change to our environment and the importance of adapting to it. Government and industries should adopt initiatives to take the immediate action that will lead to more efficient public transport, cleaner energy production, increasing the efficiency of buildings and better responsible industrial and agricultural practices.
In a country like Nigeria, there is a requirement for far more effective waste management and disposal. Everywhere we go in this country; there are dumps of rubbish and pollution on drive ways and road sides that it has almost become a trade mark of our towns and cities.
The environmental sector in Nigeria needs to introduce more strategies for waste disposal. Previously, past governments had a sanitation eradication program on Saturdays where people were not allowed to roam the streets until 10:00am, after a general clean up operation. The streets back then were much cleaner than they are now. Maybe the government needs to consider revisiting this practice in order to facilitate the clean up of the environment.
The Nigerian Government must consider adopting these or other alternative strategies and policies so that it can encourage industries to adapt to climate change. Furthermore, the initiative could include a sensitisation exercise on the benefits of recycling products such as aluminum, glass, plastic, cardboard and paper. This would help because it would allow industries to save a lot of energy needed to make new products. In addition, the use of energy efficient technologies and renewable energy resources like wind and solar power could be integrated by the industries that have the means.
On an individual and community level, we can each help cool the earth by small actions such as turning computers off overnight because of the energy it uses, planting trees and plants in order to combat erosion and integrating agricultural lands. The use of better water storage systems such as underground tanks and improved water treatment plants, improved rainwater harvesting strategies and creating community water resources to meet human or livestock needs can also be effective. Even though resources are limited, people engaged in the transportation business should try and service cars regularly and not send them out onto the streets with an unreasonable amount of exhaust seeping out. This is very common with ‘molue’ buses and trucks.
All Nigerians should get involved in curbing the climate change that is fast becoming a threat to our existence. The whole process of environmental awareness is a difficult feat because, as humans, we tend to be nonchalant about the effect of gas emissions and water misuse on our environment.
It is so easy for us to take the air we breathe for granted and not give a thought about the numerous ways we are polluting it. Unless a stance is taken, the cumulative impact of climate change is bound to affect our air and water quality even worse than it is now, resulting in inestimable consequences on everybody living on this planet. If not in our lifetime, the fall back of the damage will affect the occupation, property and lives of our descendants.
Since the root cause of climate change is thought by scientists to lie primarily in the phenomena of huge emissions of gas, we effectively have the power to mitigate its damaging impact on our planet. To protect the health and economic wellbeing of current and future generations, we honestly must reduce our emissions of heat trapping gases by using the practical solutions already at our disposal. Solutions to global warming are available and everyone has a role to play in implementing them at all levels of society.
Since embarking on my research and recovering from the ignorance of climate change that plagued me, I now consider global warming as one of the most serious challenges facing our species today. And since we were the original cause of the problem, we can always take solace in the fact that we can also create a solution for it.
Hopefully the summit has sparked the transformation that is urgently needed and propel action that will benefit everyone.
Now that the world has acknowledged the fact that we have a climate change problem through the Climate Action Summit, we should each strive to consider our role in keeping our environment clean and eventually saving our world. One hopes that the cumulative negative effect on natural resources and the balance of nature created by our oversmoking exhaust pipes and rubbish laden streets serves as a Global Warning for Global Warming!
I invite you to follow me on Twitter: @hanneymusawa