Climate Change in Nigeria: Overview

Climate Change in Nigeria: Impacts

Climate change is perhaps the most serious environmental threat in Nigeria and Africa in general. It refers to certain anomalies in the climate system, which ultimately leads to global warming. Though climate change is a global concern, Nigeria is recognized as being vulnerable to climate change. Our findings indicate that climate change if left unchecked will cause adverse effects on livelihoods in Nigeria, insecurity and conflicts; because of drastic changes in rainfall regimes and patterns, floods would devastate farmlands, and other natural disasters, which not only damage Nigerians’ livelihood but also cause harm to life and property.

Nigeria’s Climate

Nigeria’s overall climate is varies according to region. Rainfall decreases from the coast to the interior with some exceptions in areas like the Jos Plateau area of the north central and highlands.

Mean annual rainfall varies from between 380mm and 700mm in the Sahel, 760mm-1020mm in the Sudan savannah, 1200mm- 1500mm in the Guinea savannah, 1500mm to 2500mm in the rainforest zone, and about 2500mm to above 4000mm in the southern mangrove swamp near the coast.

However, temperature surface over Nigeria is not evenly distributed as rainfall. Mean annual temperature (between 27°C and 29°C) is generally higher around the plains of northern Nigeria, the north-eastern highlands and the Niger-Benue trough than the western region, coastal lowland of the Niger Delta and the north central plateau and highlands with mean annual temperature of between 22°C and 27°C.

The highland of Jos plateau has the lowest mean annual temperature of about 21°C. The mean daily hours of bright sunshine generally increases from the coast to the hinterland.

Climate Change

Climate change refers to change in the state of the climate that can be identified and that persists for an extended period typically decades or longer.

As such variations in climate occurring over a period of 100 to 150 years may not qualify as a climate change if conditions will quickly reverse later, but a change in climate usually takes place over a long period of time of at least 150 years with clear and permanent impacts on the ecosystem.

Climate change is caused by two basic factors, which include natural processes and human activities (anthropogenic).

Some of the natural processes include the following: the changes in earth’s orbit, solar radiation quantity and quality etc.

On the other hand, the anthropogenic factor in climate change mainly involves human activities that emit large amount of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere which depletes the ozone layer. Some of these activities include, gas flaring, urbanization, agriculture, industrialization, and burning of fossil fuel.

Some of the greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide (CO2), chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), Methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N20).

Evidences from reliable sources show that climate change will be global, likewise its impacts; however, the effects will be felt more by the developing countries, especially those in Africa, due to their dependence on rain-fed agriculture. Nigeria is one of such developing countries.

Nigeria shares boundaries with Benin Republic, Niger Republic and Cameroon Republics in the west, north and east respectively, and Chad Republic through Lake Chad in the northeast.

The Atlantic Ocean forms the southern boundary. Nigeria is indeed a unique tropical country that cut across all tropical ecological zones.

These include: the southern zone of Mangrove swamp, the Tropical rainforest stretching from the southwest to the southeast, the Guinea Savannah belt, the Sudan Savannah belt and the Sahel Savannah.

The unique location characteristic of Nigeria makes the country particularly vulnerable to climate change and variability resulting from both natural factors and factors having their origin in the influence of human activity on nature.

Climate Change Impacts in Nigeria

Nigeria is already enduring diverse ecological problems, which have been directly linked to the on-going climate change.

These problems include the erratic pattern of weather elements in Nigeria, its impact on desertification, changes in vegetation, etc.

In terms of climate change-induced land degradation, Nigeria endures attack in all fronts. These include serious coastline erosion, pervasive gully erosion in eastern parts of the country and central guinea savannah zone, as well as ferocious wind erosion and desertification in the sudano-sahelian zone.

Nigeria is yearly loosing an increasing amount of agricultural and grazing lands which results in migration and intensification of seasonal migration among the northern cattle rearers.

1. Changes in Vegetation:

Land cover changes are an important index of climate change. Land cover changes in the Nigerian environment result mostly from combination of natural and anthropogenic influences.

The main natural force is rainfall changes induced by climatic change. This reduces the natural regeneration rate of land resources. Due to the low rate of human regeneration of natural resources in Nigeria, there is the tendency to abandon a piece of land once it can no longer produce enough to support grazing animals.

2. Insecurity and Communal Clashes:

There seems to be a strong relationship between climate change and communal clashes in the country.

The increasing down-south migration of the Sahara desert through the Sahelian zone of Nigeria is leading to the opening up of more natural forests for cultivation and grazing in the guinea savannah and rain forest zones. This is leading to pressure on land, land use conflicts and ethnic and communal clashes in the areas that are being opened up.

However, decrease in rainfall with increase in temperature has led to pressure on land in the Guinea Savannah zone and the rainforest belt. Most of these pressure resulted from the long range seasonal migration of the Fulani herdsmen from Sahel and Sudan savannah to the Guinea savannah and now the rainforest belt.

Indeed, many cattle Fulanis with their herds are now settle permanently within the Guinea savannah and the rainforest belt.

This is a contrast to what obtains in the 1970s where they only move down-south when grasses are no longer “green” in the Sudan and Sahel, and make the return migration with the onset of rainy season in the north.

The result of this pressure on land is conflict, especially between the Fulani herdsmen and the crop growing natives of the guinea savannah over the right to the land which in most cases result in destruction of their farmlands by the cattle.

3. Drought and Desertification:

The increasing temperature and decreasing rainfall have led to frequent drought and desertification.

Nigeria north is under severe threat of desert encroachment particularly involving states like Yobe, Borno, Sokoto, Jigawa and Katsina.

The encroaching desert has taken over large expanse of arable lands, thus reducing viable agricultural lands and crop production.


The post revealed some of the manifestations and impacts of climate change in Nigeria. In view of the harmful effects of climate change, it is necessary for our government to enact and enforce regulations towards reducing deforestation and enhancing their afforestation programmes, then the rate of ozone layer depletion will decline. With cleaner atmosphere, the current rate of global warming will reduce significantly and its effects will become minimal.


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