Climate Change in Nigeria: Causes and Effects

Climate Change in Nigeria: Causes and Effects

In this article, we take a look at the issue of climate change in Nigeria. We begin with a definition of climate change, then we consider some of the causes and effects of climate change in Nigeria.

An incidence of Flooding in Nigeria

What is Climate Change?

Climate is a major challenge facing the world today. According to the intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC), climate change refers to statistically significant variations that persist for an extended period, typically decades or longer. This includes changes in the frequency and magnitude of sporadic weather events as well as the continuous rise in global mean surface temperature. This change results mainly from human activities which cause emissions of green house gases thereby increasing global warming. This global warming is what actually induces the change in climate.

Causes of Climate Change

The intergovernmental panel on climate change (IPCC) says that human activity is the main cause of the changes seen in climate. These are activities that cause emissions of greenhouse gases (mainly consist of carbon dioxide, water vapour, methane and nitrous oxide).

This is because carbon dioxide is one of the more important gases responsible for the green house effect. These green house gases are able to alter the energy balance of the earth thereby increasing the quantity of heat energy in the earth’s climatic system.

The major human-related activities that emit green house gases into the atmosphere include burning fossil fuels, gas flaring, and deforestation.

In 2009, the average CO2 emission in Nigeria was 74.14 million metric tons, which increased to 80.51 million metric tons and was predicted to drastically increase in the near future due to rising demand for products from crude oil.

Nigeria accounts for roughly one-sixth (1/6) of worldwide gas flaring: Nigeria flares about 75% of her gas and all take place in the Niger Delta region. Some 45.8 billion kilowatts of heat are discharged into the atmosphere of the Niger Delta, from flaring 1.8 billion cubic feet of gas every day.

Effects of Climate Change

Increasing temperature (global warming) and decreasing rainfall in most parts of the country are the greatest impacts of climate change. Indeed, the main effect of climate change is the increased average temperature which causes a variety of secondary effects. The secondary effects caused by increased temperature include, change in rainfall pattern, rise in sea level leading to coastal erosion and flooding, altered patterns of agricultural/cultural practices, etc.

These secondary effects have affected Nigeria in varying degree of impacts in different regions.

Drought, floods, adverse weather conditions, and other effects of climate change have begun to threaten communities in many parts of the country. Climate change affects every region of the country, but the degree and nature of impacts resulting from the phenomenon will differ from region to region.

Increased flooding from overflowing seas and rivers, threatens coastal areas, especially heavily populated Niger Delta region of the country.

Sea level rise increases the risk of flooding, displacement of people, contamination of drinking water sources. Niger Delta is vulnerable to climate change due to its low-lying topography. Climate change in the Niger Delta region has led to flooding, scorching temperature, change in rainfall pattern, coastal erosion etc. Incessant flooding in the region has forced rivers to overflow their banks and submerged thousands of acres of farmland, as well as the destruction of buildings and blockage of transportation routes in the region.

Consequently, many people in the Niger Delta whose source of livelihood once depended on natural sectors such as, farming and fishing are now changing their means of livelihood. Continued degradation of land and water as a result of climate change in the region affects the major agricultural produce in the region, thus increasing hardship for the farmer and his family.

Climatic Variation

Generally, Nigeria is witnessing a general decline in rainfall with a corresponding temperature rise. Although there is a general decrease in rainfall in Nigeria, the coastal areas of Nigeria like in Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Lagos, Delta, and Cross River States are experiencing slightly increasing rainfall in recent times.

This is a clear evidence of climate change because a notable impact of climate change is, increasing rainfall in most coastal areas and decreasing rains in the continental interiors. There is significant drop in rainfall in the northern region of Nigeria.

Ecological Implications of Climate Change in Nigeria

1. Coastal Flooding:

The increasing temperature has resulted in increased land-based ice melting. The implication is that the present sea level rise has flooded 3,400 km2 of the coastal region of Nigeria, and if the sea level rise continues unchecked then 18,400 km2 of the coastal region may be inundated.

Coastal settlements like Ibeno, Eket, Bonny, Forcados, Lagos, Warri and Calabar etc would be seriously threatened by further rise of sea-level.

The coastal inundation and erosion with their associated population displacement are currently major environmental problems in places like Eket, Nembe, and other coastal settlements in Bayelsa, Delta, Cross River, Rivers, and Lagos States of Nigeria.

The increasing temperature and decreasing rainfall have led to frequent drought and desertification. The Sahara desert is currently expanding to all directions trying to engulf the Sahellian region of Africa.

2. Desertification in Northern Nigeria:

Consequently, Nigeria’s north is under severe threat of desert encroachment and sand dunes are now common features of desertification in states like Yobe, Borno, Sokoto, Jigawa and Katsina.

The migrating sand dunes have buried large expanse of arable lands, thus reducing viable agricultural lands and crops’ production. This has prompted massive emigration and resettlement of people to areas less threatened by desertification. Such emigration often results in increasing spate of communal clashes among herdsmen and farmers and such clashes resulted in the death of scores of people in northern states of Nigeria.

The global warming and decreasing rainfall together with the erratic pattern of rainfall creates water crisis. In Nigeria, many rivers have dried up or are becoming more seasonally navigable.

Consequently, so many rivers in Nigeria, especially in Northern Nigeria, are in the danger of disappearing. The water scarcity will create the tendency for concentration of users around the remaining limited sources of water. Under such circumstances, there is increased possibility of struggle and conflicts arising from struggle for the limited sources of water.

The impact of climate change in Nigeria have led to devastating consequences and effects in various parts of the country which include flooding, desertification, erosion, drought, sea level rise, heat stress, erratic rainfall patterns and land degradation. Specifically, the South-south geopolitical zone is mainly affected by sea level rise and deforestation-induced changes; the Southwest zone also is affected by sea level rise and deforestation-induced changes; Southeast by erosion, flooding and land degradation; North-central by changes due to loss of vegetation and overgrazing; Northeast by drought, desertification and heat stress; and Northwest also by drought and desertification and heat stress.

In summary, the effects of climate change in Nigeria would manifest through changes in land and water regimes, specifically, changes in the frequency and intensity of droughts, flooding, water shortages, worsening of droughts, worsening soil conditions, desertification, disease and pest outbreaks on crops and livestock.

3. Agriculture: Crop and Animal Production

As temperature increases and rainfall pattern becomes more unpredictable, crop yields drop significantly. Also extreme weather events such as thunderstorms, heavy winds and floods devastate farmlands and can lead to crop failure.

Consequently, parts of Nigeria that experienced soil erosion and operate rain fed agriculture could have significant decline in agricultural yield due to increasing impact of climate change.

4. Forestry:

Nigeria’s forest reserves are not left out in the threat posed by climate change. Climate change has affected agriculture and forestry through higher temperatures, elevated Co2 concentration, precipitation changes, increased weeds, pests and disease pressure, and increased vulnerability of organic carbon pools. It is worthy to note that eleven out of the thirty-six states in the country referred to as the frontline states are gradually being swallowed up by desertification.

Nigeria’s primary tropical forest in Cross River State has been decimated by 97%, mostly since 1990. The main cause is the demand for wood fuel.


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